During her visit to the Diocese of Parramatta on 3 February 2023, Sr Nathalie Becquart XMCJ, the Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, took part in a panel discussion with Australia’s Ambassador to the Vatican, Chiara Porro facilitated by experienced journalist, Geraldine Doogue AO. Joining Sr Nathalie, a Sister of the Congregation of Xavières, and Ambassador Porro for the conversation, were Paul McClintock AO, of St Vincent’s Health and Kirsty Robertson, CEO of Caritas Australia.
The Diocese of Parramatta has released a video of the 45 minute discussion which covered key issues around on topics around the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops taking place later this year and in 2024, and synodality in Australian contexts.
As Geraldine states, “This (discussion) puts ‘flesh on the bones’ of the process that Pope Francis has initiated.”
During the discussion, Geraldine asks the panellists on the progress that they have observed around Synodality. Sr Nathalie recounts that in her role she sees that for many people it is the first time they feel the Church has asked for their views and for their input.
Ambassador Porro gives some insights into her role in the Vatican. She talks about how the 90 international ambassadors to the Vatican have been watching the process as it unfolds, and concludes that the Synod is one of the “pillars” of Pope Francis’s pontificate. The issues covered by the Synod, she says, align with the priorities of the Australian Government who she represents at the Vatican, such as care for our common home, giving voices to indigenous people and ending social exclusion.
For many women, particularly those in communities where Caritas Australia works, the process of having a voice empowers them, often for the first time, says Kirsty.
Sr Nathalie talks about how as the baptised, we are all called to be missionary disciples and to have a role and to participate in the Church, including those who are usually marginalised.
Paul also emphasises that the synodal process gives all members of the Church “permission” to see themselves as leaders of the Church.
Discussing the listening focus of the Synod, Kirsty tells of how those living in poverty are grateful when the people in the Australian Church listen to them and their stories. “We (the educated) have the privilege and the responsibilities to feed into this (synodal) process the feelings of the people that we encounter who can’t write into this process,” she says of her role to bring the views of the marginalised to the Synod.
Sr Nathalie emphasises the need for all members of the Church to remember they are journeying on this process together with all people and that there needs to be a vision for the relationship between clergy and laity. This she says, means we need to acknowledge and recognise the fears and anxieties of all those involved.
She reiterates the vision of the synodal church is a “Church of local Churches” talking about the diversity within the Catholic Church around the world, down to the fact there are four gospels which tell the same story from different viewpoints. She explains that part of being synodal is being open to where the process will take the Church. “Synodality is the vision of the Church in history,” she says. “The starting point is our situation, you have to be with the people where they are,” she says. “
“The Synod is about the Church learning to be with the people as a discerning Church, as a learning Church, as a listening Church.”
Further videos and articles from Sr Nathalie’s visit to Australia will be launched in the coming weeks. Find them at the Sr Nathalie Becquart hub on Catholic Outlook.