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In less than 24 hours, the Opening Mass for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia will be celebrated at St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth. It will be a focal point for the Church in Australia as a journey that has its origins two decades ago finally commences the nine-month period of celebration, with the Second General Assembly scheduled for July 2022.
This special edition of PlenaryPost seeks to ensure those wishing to follow the First General Assembly have all the information in one place. Below you’ll find links to livestream and social media feeds, to the prayers that members will be using and you can use to, and some news and notes from the final days leading to the Council’s official opening.
Please continue to pray for the Plenary Council members, and for the Church in Australia as the celebration of the Council begins. We have been so grateful for the prayers offered for the Council in recent days and weeks. If you wanted to use a simple, two-minute prayer, maybe on each day of the Assembly, this video resource using the Plenary Council prayer could be a good option.
Undertaking this challenging task of discernment together
As a community of faith, we know that our task is to “test the spirits to see whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1); that we are called to interpret the “signs of the times in the light of the Gospel”; that the Lord calls us “not (to) be conformed to this world but (to) be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). We believe that the Lord’s Church has been given “hierarchical and charismatic gifts” by God who thus equips us for the mission he entrusts to the Church.
Through the work of the Plenary Council we, the Catholic community in Australia, undertake this challenging task of discernment together. We do so with confidence. Our Catholic tradition is rich in its understanding and experience of discernment. We know that God speaks to us in a variety of ways. St Paul reminds us that we can know about God from the things which God has made (Rom 1:19-20) and the Letter to the Hebrews that “in many and varied ways God spoke of old to our ancestors by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son …” (1:1-2). We know that Christ is the fullness of God’s self-revelation and that this revelation is found in written form in the Scriptures and pre-eminently in the Gospels.
We know that the Church was founded by Christ and that our vocation is to be the sacrament of communion with God and of unity among all people. We know that Christ promised to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to his Church and that the Spirit would lead the Church into the fullness of the truth (John 16:13). We know that God’s Spirit is given to the whole Church, and that the People of God, together, have a deep instinct for the truth (the sensus fidei) which protects us, as a community of faith, from falling into fundamental error in matters of belief.
We know that the bishops of the Church, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, have been given a particular responsibility for ensuring that the Church remains faithful to the truth of the Gospel, as this has been progressively understood and formally taught across the centuries. Above all, we know that Christ is our Way, our Truth and our Life (John 14:6). We are seeking to follow his way, commit to and live by his truth, and to allow the Spirit to work within us so that, with St Paul we can say: “I no longer live, for it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).
— From the Preface of Continuing the Journey, the instrumentum laboris (or working document) for the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia.
We will address a new question in each e-newsletter. To catch up on previous editions, you can check out the Plenary Council FAQ page. If you have a question, email it to us and we will include it in future editions of PlenaryPost.
The question for this edition is…
Who will attend the Plenary Council assemblies?
There will be three main groups of people attending the Council’s assemblies: Members; Advisers; and Observers.
Members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia are those who have been called to participate in the assemblies. Some of the members are people who “must” be called to a plenary council, as outlined in Church law; others are people who “may” be called, who were chosen through a range of processes across the country. The members have, at times, been referred to as “delegates” to the Council. The language of “member” better reflects the canonical status of those called to a Council, as well as the sense that all members are there to represent the People of God in Australia, not just their local Church community. Members are the only people who can vote at the Council assemblies. It is expected there will be 278 members at the assemblies.
Advisers to the Council are people with particular expertise across a range of matters, such as theology, Scripture, governance, formation, ecclesiology (study of the Church), who can be called upon by members, individually or collectively, to provide advice on particular matters to assist with their discernment and decision-making. Advisers are sometimes called “experts” or “periti”, a latin term used to describe the experts at the Second Vatican Council and other major Church events.
Observers are people who, as the name suggests, observe the proceedings of the Council assemblies because of their particular relationship with the Catholic Church in Australia. Following the tradition of other Church gatherings, the observers are likely to include Catholic leaders from other parts of the world, especially New Zealand, the Pacific and Asia; leaders of other Christian denominations; and leaders of other faith traditions.
First Assembly is start of nine-month journey
The Mass to officially open the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia this Sunday marks the start of a focused nine-month period of discernment for the Catholic Church in Australia, Bishop Shane Mackinlay has said.
Bishop Mackinlay, who serves as the Council’s vice-president, said the first general assembly will be a critical time in the Plenary Council journey, but it is the first of two assemblies – with a time of “germination” between October and July.
“As the members gather from next Monday to consider the 16 questions that comprise the Plenary Council’s agenda, we will spend the week planting the seeds for renewing the Church for mission,” he said.
“Over the week, we will create a plan for the nine months between the assemblies, allowing those seeds to germinate, with the work of the members complemented by the prayers, discernment and input of the People of God in Australia.”
The opening Mass will be livestreamed at 2pm AEDT on Sunday, October 3, celebrated by Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, the Council president.
The first general assembly will unfold over six days, starting October 4, with Mass to close the first assembly to be celebrated at 10am AEST from St Stephen’s Cathedral in Brisbane.
The second assembly is scheduled to take place in Sydney from July 4-9, 2022.
Pray along with the Council members
The liturgies and prayers that will nourish and sustain the members of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia have been published online to invite the Church nationally to pray with the members and for the upcoming first general assembly.
Find prayer resources for the first general assembly, including Mass booklets and prayer experiences, on the Plenary Council website.
Follow the First General Assembly online
The best places to keep informed about the First General Assembly will be the Plenary Council website and on the Plenary Council’s Facebook page. The livestreams of sessions (see schedule below) can be accessed on the website, and they’ll then be archived on our YouTube channel.
‘Spiritual conversations’ will aid Council discernment
When members of the Plenary Council begin unpacking the agenda’s 16 questions, they will use a process known as “spiritual conversations”.
Br Ian Cribb SJ has been a key adviser to the Plenary Council’s Steering Team, especially in the areas of discernment and the practice of “spiritual conversations”.
In an article on the Bishops Conference’s Media Blog, Br Ian said “when a group enters into spiritual conversation, it leaves room for the Holy Spirit to work. It builds a sense of community and trust. It enhances respects for one another”.
He continued: “It is important that members … know that an immediate decision isn’t always possible or desirable, but through prayer and conversation, a group can start to hear what the Spirit is saying.”
Plenary Podcast to feature daily content
To help share the journey of discernment through the First General Assembly and for the experience of Council members to be shared with the wider community, the Plenary Council has partnered with The Journey Catholic Radio, a ministry of the Diocese of Wollongong.
During the course of the coming week, starting on Sunday evening, a new podcast episode will be uploaded to the Plenary Podcast channel each day, which can be accessed online and across a number of podcast services, should you wish to subscribe.
The first episode in partnership with The Journey Catholic Radio was an interview with Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins, helping people new to the Council process know where we’ve come from, where we are and where we are going. You can listen to that episode here.
Follow the Plenary Council assembly online
With the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia being an event for the whole Church, parts of the first general assembly will be livestreamed.
Here is the livestream schedule. All times listed are AEDT, and the livestream will be accessible by the public through the Plenary Council webpage.
Sunday, October 3: Opening Mass, 2pm
Monday-Saturday: Daily Mass, 9.30am
Monday-Wednesday: Opening Session, 11am-12.15pm (end time is approximate)
Friday-Saturday: Opening Session, 11am-12.15pm (end time is approximate)
Sunday, October 10: Closing Mass for first general assembly, 11am.
The livestreamed sessions are part of a broader program for the Plenary Council members, which is outlined in the graphic below.
Auslan to support deaf, hard of hearing community
During the livestreamed sessions that will take place on most days of the First General Assembly and during the Masses that are broadcast each day, Auslan interpreters will help support the experience of those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
Mass and sessions during the assembly will be archived after being streamed, which will allow a watcher to use closed captioning or similar methods to augment their viewing experience.
With four states and the ACT switching to daylight savings time tonight, this is just a reminder to make sure you put your clocks forward. We’d hate for you to miss the opening Mass, livestreamed from St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth at 11am AWST.
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