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Irish Bishop's invite us all to make submissions in preparation for upcoming National Synod

The Irish Catholic Bishops' recently announced a new Synodal Pathway for the Catholic Church in Ireland leading to the holding of a National Synodal Assembly within the next five years. The focus being on the challenges and opportunities it is facing in a rapidly changing society.

Since embarking along this synodal pathway, the bishop's have been assisted and greatly encouraged by Cardinal Mario Grech and Sr Natalie Becquart, of the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops in Rome.

The pathway will consist of two phases: a consultation phase (2021-2023) and a planning phase leading to the Synod Assembly.

Before embarking on the consultation itself, bishops are seeking submissions on what are the best methods to adopt in the consultation process.


What is a Synodal Pathway? 

The word "synod" evokes the image of "walking together on the way". For the Church it is a time-honoured way of working out together the "navigation map" for the Church at particular times. Synodality is about the whole People of God helping each other listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church.

Speaking at the end of the World Meeting of Families in Phoenix Park, Dublin 2018, Pope Francis encouraged the people of Ireland to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit:

"who constantly breathes new life into our world, into our hearts, into our families, into our homes and parishes. Each new day in the life of our families, and each new generation, brings the promise of a new Pentecost, a domestic Pentecost, a fresh outpouring of the Spirit, the Paraclete, whom Jesus sends as our Advocate, our Consoler and indeed our Encourager. How much our world needs this encouragement that is God's gift and promise!"

Walking together 

A synodal pathway is inviting us to journey together in discernment of what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in Ireland. We are acutely aware of the huge challenges to the faith over the past fifty years from the rapid transformation and secularisation of society in Ireland bringing with it a major decline in practice of the faith and in the number of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

Like so many others we are appalled by the findings in published Reports into institutional and clerical abuse; the recent shocking revelations about Mother and Baby homes in Ireland – north and south – have further reminded us of the deep trauma felt by so many in the Body of Christ and the need for inner healing and hope.

One hundred years on from the partition of Ireland we also recognise the need for ongoing peace-making, the building of trust and reconciliation, and for a culture of welcome and integration for migrants and the many newcomers who have arrived to live on this island.

We hear a cry for transparency, greater participation and accountability in the Church.

We see the tremendous potential for the support and renewal of faith within the family. The restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic prompted a new discovery of the family as the "domestic Church".

We are alert to the need to connect with the energy and gifts of our young people, forming and enabling them to be missionaries to each other and inviting them to spread the Good News not only in Ireland but around the world that Christ is Alive!

While many women are very engaged in Church life in Ireland, we acknowledge the critical need to honour the contribution of women, to hear their deep concerns, to formally recognise their roles and articulate new models of co-responsibility and leadership involving all lay people – women and men.

We are also aware that many people have left Church behind and in some cases feel ignored, excluded or forgotten – we need to hear their voices also.

If the church wants to become a missionary church, then it has to be a synodal Church, for synodality is not just a methodological choice, but the mode of being of a church which wants to go out in mission.

by Cardinal Mario Grech to the Bishops of Ireland on Synodality

Synodal Pathway – Timeline

The journey towards a more synodal Irish Church begins now. Preparing ourselves to think and act synodally cannot happen overnight. A Synod without a synodal preparation risks being merely a parliament of competing voices.

The process that is proposed is as follows:

THE FIRST STEP: Methods of Engagement

Before embarking on the consultation itself, bishops are seeking submissions on what methods to adopt in the next two years (2021-2023) of the consultation process. 

The responses will be considered by a special task group which the Irish Bishops will put in place during their next Summer General Meeting in June 2021 to plan and oversee the first steps along the Synodal Pathway.

PHASE ONE: Consultation 2021-2023 - Prayer, Listening, Consultation, Discernment 

Bishops envisage these next two years (2021-2023) as a period of prayer, listening and discernment, involving a nationwide consultative conversation on the theme communion, participation and mission.

This will allow individuals and parishes, religious orders and associations as well as groups, movements and organisations both within the Church and in Irish society at large, to share their insights into the Church in Ireland – past, present and future. It will also include discussion and debate via related information sessions and educational programmes on the meaning and processes of synodality. 

The Bishops encourage reflection, study and research on the theme of synodality at parish, diocesan, regional and national level and invite writers, theologians and lecturers to prepare papers for sharing and discussion in this two-year phase.

PHASE TWO: The Planning Phase – Preparation for a National Synodal Assembly 

The planning and preparation phase for a National Synodal Assembly will bring together and seek to implement the fruits and recommendations from Phase two. It will, in particular, take account of the conclusions of the 'For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission' General Assembly in Rome in 2022 together with any Apostolic Exhortation by the Holy Father emerging from the General Assembly. 

The aim of this phase will be to design the particular form of the National Synod and prepare directly at local, regional and national level for the holding of the Synod.

As we embark on the synodal pathway, Bishops ask for prayers that this may be a time of renewal, reform and new hope for all the People of God in Ireland.

Call for submissions for Methods of Engagement


Before embarking on the Synodal Pathway consultation, bishops are inviting submissions to reflect on what methods or models to adopt in these coming two years of consultation conversations. These submissions, are about how to go about this phase of consultative conversations taking into consideration:

  • What do we believe are key ways of developing serious conversations within a Diocese and it's parishes?
  • What are the hard-to-reach constituencies/demographics from whom we need to hear?
  • What help does a diocese need from the national church to help achieve the best in a Diocese?

QUESTION: What would be your preferred option for engagement in a conversation process about the Synod?


For example, would the option for engagement be:

  • parish hall meetings;
  • focus groups;
  • questionnaires;
  • deep-listening sessions;
  • written submissions;
  • family-focused gatherings;
  • summary of findings of assemblies that have already taken place across dioceses;
  • conferences; or
  • something not on this list?

You are invited to submit your preferred option in not more than 300 words to: Synod Submissions on the Irish Catholic Website

The responses will be considered by a special task group which the Irish Bishops will put in place during their next Summer General Meeting in June 2021 to plan and oversee the first steps along the Synodal Pathway.


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