Catholic dioceses and parishes around Aotearoa New Zealand will be welcoming the Vatican’s four-month extension for the local phase of the Synod process.
The General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops recently moved the April 2022 deadline of the first (local) phase of the two-year international synodal process to next 15 August.
Bishop Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hamilton and Secretary of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference, says the original timeframe was difficult for Southern Hemisphere countries because of our typical late-December to January holiday period, which sees many people away from their usual parishes.
“As well, travel and gathering restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic have resulted in challenges for diocesan face-to-face engagement and more reliance on digital engagement,” he said. “Those at the margins are even harder to reach and it is challenging to even engage those already connected with the idea of being a synodal church.
“The extended date should allow each diocese more time to prepare parishes for synodality and to engage more widely. It’s hoped that the ‘traffic light’ changes to the Covid-19 restrictions will allow people to gather more readily, particularly in Auckland and Hamilton,” Bishop Lowe said.
Pope Francis officially launched the synodal process – themed For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission – on 10 October. The diocesan phase, now extended, began on 17 October in dioceses around the world. The Pope wants to hear what ordinary Catholics from around the world think of the future direction of the Church.
This “Synod on Synodality” is the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the Catholic Church
After the diocesan phase of the process, the NZCBC will prepare a national synthesis for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. Syntheses from around the world will then serve as the basis for the first edition of the Instrumentum Laboris, which will be refined during a continental process and a final version will be used at the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in October 2023.