[Photo caption: Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe]
Today, representing the Irish Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick, and Bishop Alan McGuckian SJ of Raphoe, are travelling to attend the 16th General Assembly of the Synod in the Vatican. This Synod on Synodality will be attended by Church representatives from around the world and will sit from 4 – 29 October on the theme: ‘For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission’.
Also in attendance will be Rev Professor Eamon Conway, a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuam, who will serve the Synod as an ‘Expert and Facilitator’, and Sister Patricia Murray IBVM, in her role as Executive Secretary of the International Union of Superiors General.
As they left Ireland, Bishops Leahy and McGuckian reiterated that the Synodal Process is about conversion and, in light of Pope Francis’ comment that ‘without prayer there will be no Synod’, invited people of faith to pray to God over the coming weeks at daily and weekend Masses, at home, and in religious communities, to intercede for Pope Francis and for all members of the Synodal Assembly.
In an interview with iCatholic.ie, Bishop Leahy expressed the Synod as Spirit-inspired by Pope Francis, but that the Holy Father is “really taking up the great inspiration of the Second Vatican Council; that we are the Church as a people.” Bishop Leahy said, “We are not primarily the Pope, the bishops and the priests. For too long, maybe, that’s been the image that people have had of Church. The Church is a people. If you want, the model of the people is Mary, and we are to be this people that radiate, like Mary did, the presence of Christ in the world. But we can only do that in our relationships renewed. That is my great hope out of this Synodal Process.”
In terms of his hope for the Synod, Bishop McGuckian reflected that in many ways the process is only a beginning, and will go on throughout our lives. He told iCatholic.ie, “I was excited to see that ‘mission’ was at the very heart of it. Every one of us wants to see the Church alive, and attractive and beautiful in the world. Many of the people who at these things [faith gatherings] are concerned about faith being passed on to new people. Parents are very concerned, and grandparents are very concerned, that faith will be passed on to their children. That is a big part of the mission of the Church, and outreach. I would love to see us having the beginnings of an experience of communion with Jesus among us, where we will find ways of expressing the truth of the faith in new and powerful ways.”
In the context of the challenges that may arise in discussions during the Synod, Ms Julieann Moran, General Secretary of the Irish Synodal Pathway, said, “A huge part of this has got to be trust. The main protagonist, whether we like it or not, in any synodal process, is the Holy Spirit. We might be gathering together to dialogue, and probably argue – it wouldn’t be the first or last time at a Church council – to tease it all out. People should be the given an opportunity to able to speak their mind, and speak their truth, but that somewhere in that process through the prayer, through the attentive listening, through the intentional speaking, that the Holy Spirit will guide this process. What is right for the Church in the third millennium will be what will come out ultimately from this process.”
This Saturday, Pope Francis will preside over an ecumenical vigil of prayer in Saint Peter’s Square to welcome the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I; the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, other Church leaders as well as thousands of Christians from different denominations. The vigil is intended to entrust to the Holy Spirit the work of the forthcoming Synod, and will include listening to the Word of God, praise and intercession, Taizé songs and silence.
- To watch the full interviews on YouTube, please see videos on the iCatholic channel.
- In October 2021 Pope Francis convened the whole Church in Synod. Since that time there have been gatherings of the faithful at parish, national and continental levels. Following next month’s universal gathering in Rome for the Synod on Synodality, a second universal gathering of this Synod will also take place during October 2024. The aim of the Synodal Process is to provide an opportunity for the entire People of God to discern together how to move forward towards being a more synodal Church in the long-term.