The Catholic Church in Ireland and across Europe is on “a journey towards another way of living, with God, and with each other”, said Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell on Monday.
In a sermon at the Pro Cathedral, marking the feast of the Assumption, he said he was speaking “on this day when the church in Ireland submits its national synthesis to the Holy See” in Rome. The synthesis is due to be published on Tuesday.
“Anyone with two eyes in their head can see that renewal in our church is clearly and urgently necessary. The challenge is to find the good way of renewal,” he said.
Last October Pope Francis launched a worldwide consultation process within the church in advance of a synod of bishops which takes place at the Vatican in October 2023. The diocesan phase of the synod began with consultations in parishes throughout Ireland’s 26 dioceses then too, with all 26 subsequent reports published last June.
In general, these called for a greater role for women in the church, including ordination, removal of mandatory celibacy for priests, radical change in the church’s attitude to LGBTI+ and other marginalised people, as well as for a much greater role for the laity.
These diocesan reports were discussed, as were independent submissions, at a national assembly of the church in Athlone on June 18th last in advance of a synthesis to be prepared by a synodal pathway steering group, chaired by Nicola Brady. That synthesis was sent to Rome on Monday as representative of the views of the Irish Catholic Church for consideration at the Synod of Bishops there in October next year.
In tandem with the publication of the synthesis on Tuesday, Dr Brady will address its content in a talk at Knock Shrine then also, as part of the resumed national novena there. The novena had been suspended in recent years due to the pandemic.
In his sermon on Monday, Archbishop Farrell said that what was needed in the church today included “functioning structures — parish [and diocesan] councils and committees which work and which are empowered to work, and are allowed to work; more active involvement by all”.
He continued that “we need to look anew at how we celebrate the Liturgy, and at the quality of our celebrations” and he asked “who will lead our communities in listening for the voice of God which is spoken in the heart of every person? What structures will help us find ways of waiting for God’s word, and of acting in its light?”
Referring to “the synodal way”, he said “marriage and family were “prime examples of the synodal ways in our lives. What is a marriage but two people who have committed to journeying through life together. In order for this to be worthwhile and life-enhancing, they have to listen to each other, speak with each other, make sacrifices for each other, and at times even endure being misunderstood or taken for granted.”
Looking to the future, Archbishop Farrell said “the church is learning lowliness anew. Year by year, it is becoming more like the humble and simple Christ. It is not an easy road, but it is the only road”.