Tuesday 16 August, the third day of the National Novena, marked a very significant day at Knock Shrine as we facilitated the launch of the National Synthesis, the fruit of a wide-ranging process of listening and consultation drawing on the syntheses produced by the 26 dioceses in Ireland, including those submitted by religious congregations and other interested groups.
The National Synthesis will be forwarded to Rome as part of the worldwide synodal process of listening and discernment launched by Pope Francis in October 2021, culminating in the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2023.
Dr Nicola Brady, Chair of the the Steering Committee of the synodal Pathway was the guest speaker at the Novena ceremonies on this day, and she reflected on what the significance of the publication;
Arising from these reflections are questions that need to be examined more deeply at the level of the local, national and universal Church. At local level, it is important to take time to reflect on what pastoral actions we could take now — what might we do differently as a result of what we’ve heard? At the national level, the Irish Bishops have also committed to a national synodal pathway for the Church in Ireland, and that work will continue beyond the timeline of the Universal Synod, which concludes in October next year. The decisions about how that national process will be developed have not yet been taken, and so there are still opportunities for people to help shape it.
It’s fitting that we mark the publication of the national synthesis today here today in Knock — a special place that evokes faith and healing for so many people, not just in Ireland, but around the world. The Novena theme of ‘A Journey of Hope’ resonates strongly with the experience of, and vision for, our synodal process.
The Bishops issued a statement of welcome on the completion of the National Synthesis, saying, “We are pleased to publish the National Synthesis document prepared by the Steering Committee of lay faithful, religious, priests and bishops which was appointed by our Conference to lead us along the synodal journey.”
Bishops went on to reflect on the process, the Synthesis Document and the continuing Synodal Pathway. They said, “Since October 2021, tens of thousands of Catholics across Ireland have been engaging in prayerful listening and reflection on the theme chosen by Pope Francis: “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission.”
In June 2022 there was a unique and wonderful National Synodal gathering in Athlone which was followed by a moving ritual in the sixth century ancient monastic site of Clonmacnoise. In a prayerful atmosphere, we heard feedback from the hundreds of conversations that had taken place across Ireland, and from the many submissions that had been collected. Despite the constraints of COVID-19, the process that we have been following in these past months represents a modest but significant first step in developing a synodal style of consultation about the future of the Church in Ireland and around the world.
The Synthesis of the Consultation in Ireland for the Diocesan Stage of the Universal Synod 2021-2023 is now available on www.synod.ie