Report on Limerick Diocese’s ‘listening process’ published
Sunday, 5 June, 2022: Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has emphasised the importance of the Church listening to those it “does not normally hear” as it makes its contribution to next year’s Universal Synod in Rome.
In an open letter to the diocese on Pentecost Sunday, Bishop Leahy said that there is a need to listen to all voices, from those who often might feel unwelcomed to those from the “river of Tradition”.
As part of its preparations for and contribution to next year’s Synod, Limerick Diocese engaged in a fresh listening process – just five years after having its own diocesan Synod -and has captured that opinion in a ‘Synod Synthesis Report’. This has now been submitted to the Bishops’ Conference and published this weekend on the diocesan website.
The report, Bishop Leahy said, is a snap shot in time of a variety of voices peaking to a range of themes.
“This is a first step. We are part of a universal Church whose voice we too have to hear and listen to. Clearly, much reflection, prayer and catechesis will also be needed as we progress in the spiritual ‘discernment’ to understand what God wants of the Church in Ireland today. We will need to listen also to the voices of the river of Tradition that has come down to us through the generations.
“I am grateful for the various ways in which people in our Diocese have gone out, met people, let them question us, letting their questions become our questions. In engaging in this dialogue perhaps, as Pope Francis indicated would happen, we might even have been taken aback by what we heard. Some of the voices might be more extreme but it has been important to give voice to those we do not regularly hear,” Bishop Leahy said.
By launching the Universal Synodal pathway, Pope Francis has provided us with a new opportunity to listen to one another and to others who may not think as we do, Bishop Leahy continued.
“In responding to Pope Francis’ invitation to engage in conversations, the Diocese of Limerick has, therefore, made an effort to listen not just to those of us who come to church regularly, but also to hear what our family members, work colleagues and neighbours who do not come to church have to say.
“Indeed, the Universal Synod’s Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches, The Vademecum, encouraged us to make ‘every effort to involve those who feel excluded or marginalised’, ‘including people who have left the practice of the faith’.”
Bishop Leahy said there was a particular need to pray for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit because the Synodal pathway is “not a kind of diocesan parliament”.
“One thing is clear. The Church does not stand still. The Spirit pushes us forward,” he said.
“It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We can be grateful for the first step taken in this Report that will be followed up by many other steps in the years to come.”