The synod process was instigated by Pope Francis in 2021. His initiative "For a Synodal Church — communion, participation, mission", continues to work its way towards the first in a two-part global Synod of Bishops, which is to take place in October this year.
In February, the bishops of Oceania met in Fiji. Bishop Michael Gielen was one of those attending, and wrote about his experience in the last issue of Inform. Part of the focus for their gathering was considering the region's response to the Synod's Working Document for the Continental Stage, entitled "Enlarge the Space of Your Tent."
The Oceania response was drafted by a writing and discernment group, which synthesised reports from the four bishops conferences of Oceania and the Eastern Catholic Churches. In a context of prayer and contemplation, the bishops reviewed and refined that document, which was then approved and submitted to the Synod Secretariat in Rome.
The document has now been published and can be viewed on the diocesan website — along with the previously produced documents of the Christchurch Diocese and the New Zealand synthesis documents.
The bishops said that "one of the key works of a bishop is to teach. Gathered as the shepherds of the people of Oceania, we wanted to share our prayerful and considered thoughts on what we had heard. We do not want to build a different Church, but rather to renew and revitalise the Church which we love."
The document concedes that the responses gathered represented only a small proportion of the Catholic population, and the breadth and depth of local lived experiences were not always contained in the document. "The document captures the hopes and concerns of our people, and this might give the impression that the Church is in disarray," the bishops' pastoral reflection says. "However, it is precisely in places and times of pain and suffering that Christ reveals Himself. This confidence and faith in His presence can guide us in our response."
The Oceania report outlines the fruits of the discernment which took place in response to Enlarge the Space of Your Tent, drawing together common themes, issues, and insights. It also highlights tensions and differences, and identifies priorities and calls to action. The Synod on synodality is a significant process internationally as well as for the Church here in Aotearoa. At the core of being synodal is the discernment process, grounded in scripture, prayer, trusting in the Holy Spirit, and deep listening to one another.