Moving Forward Together on the Synodal Journey – November 2022
A Pastoral Message from Archbishop Eamon Martin,
Bishop Michael Router and the Synodal Core Group
for the Archdiocese of Armagh
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Just over a year ago Pope Francis launched the first stage of a worldwide listening process in the Church, known as the Synodal Process. This time of reflection and discussion will lead to Synod gatherings of the Church in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024. Millions of Catholics around the world have already taken part in the consultation including nearly 2000 people from this Archdiocese – a quarter of whom were young people. We would like to thank all those who took part and those who helped to facilitate the Synodal process locally.
On Thursday 27th October a working document for the next stage of the Synodal process was launched. It is entitled “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent”. It brings together the feedback from all over the world and provides the foundation for further discernment and discussion at five continental assemblies in the new year. The European Assembly will take place in Prague from the 5th – 12th of February. Archbishop Eamon will be joining the delegation from Ireland.
The title of the working document “Enlarge the Space of your Tent” is a quotation from the prophet Isaiah, and it uses the image of a tent to describe the Church. The vision is of the Church as an expansive dwelling which can offer shelter for all. A tent is secured by its pegs. In relation to the Church the pegs symbolise the fundamentals of faith which do not change but can be moved and planted in new ground. Hospitality and welcome are essential in enlarging the tent, the outreach, of the Church. Enlarging the tent also means a change of attitudes, being open to including everyone and making more room for diversity.
The working document “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent” is available to read on our Armagh Diocesan Website (https://www.armaghprays.com/). Our diocesan submission, and the National Synthesis document summarising the response from all over Ireland are also available there.
We encourage everyone to read these documents and send your comments to your parish Pastoral Council or to the Diocesan Pastoral Office in Dundalk – firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Diocesan Synodal Core Group is also organising a gathering of parish delegates, and delegates from religious orders within the diocese, on 1st December, to further discern the contents of the continental working document, “Enlarge the Space of Your Tent.” We hope to send feedback to the steering committee which is helping to prepare the Irish delegation for the European Continental Assembly in February.
The freshness and novelty of synodality has been mentioned by many participants who remark that it was the first time that they had been officially asked for their opinion. Theologians, however, have pointed out that the synodal process in the Church is deeply rooted in scripture and tradition. It has simply been renewed and revived for the benefit of the living Church today. As the report says, “if the Church is not synodal, no one can really feel fully at home”.
The extensive consultation that has taken place over the past year is just the first step on the synodal path. Hopefully our ongoing reflections and consultation over the coming years, in this diocese and beyond, will help everyone to find a home in the Church community. We therefore encourage you to engage and to help to renew the mission of the Church as we continue to face together the challenges of today and tomorrow.
With blessing to you all,
+Archbishop Eamon Martin
+Bishop Michael Router
Listening, Consultation and Diocesan Synthesis
for the Universal Synod
May 2022 Update
On October 9-10th in Rome Pope Francis launched the theme of the 2023 Synod of Bishops – For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission. The diocesan phase of the Synod was introduced in every parish across the Archdiocese of Armagh on October 17th 2021. This phase which involved all local Churches across the globe has represented the largest consultation of the lay faithful ever to take place and examines what life is like in the Church at this moment in time.
During February and March parishes, communities, schools and groups across the Archdiocese of Armagh focused on listening and discerning the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Archdiocese of Armagh.
This listening culminated in a Pre-synodal gathering that took place in the Armagh City hotel on Tuesday 10th May and further to this a diocesan Synthesis was collated. The Archdiocese of Armagh’s synthesis, which can be accessed by clicking the link below, has been passed on to the Irish Bishops Conference for consideration as part of the Irish Churches submission to the Universal Synodal Process.
The Archdiocese wishes to thank all those who participated generously in the listening process and a special thanks is extended to members of the Diocesan Synodal Core Group. The fruits of this phase of the synodal pathway will be reflected on and brought forward as part of both the Irish Synodal Pathway and our own Synodal journey in the Archdiocese of Armagh.
You can read the diocesan synthesis here:
New synod.ie website launched
to support Synodal Pathway
A new website www.synod.ie has been launched today to support engagement with the national synodal pathway for the Catholic Church in Ireland. The website provides information about the synodal pathway and the timeline for the work, as well as making available a variety of resources to support engagement.
Dr Nicola Brady, Chair of the Steering Committee said: “The initial response to the announcement of the synodal pathway by the Irish bishops has been very encouraging. Many people have expressed a desire to learn more about the concept of synodality and how this might work in practice in our context. We hope that this website will be a helpful resource to those who wish to engage with the process as it develops.”
Welcoming the publication of the website and resources Archbishop Eamon Martin said: “This website builds on the important work that has begun at diocesan and national levels, as well as in a variety of other settings, to take up the invitation from Pope Francis to think about what it means to be a synodal church. I encourage everyone to use the resources provided to make bring their perspective to this important work. Bishops are grateful to all those who have contributed thus far to raising awareness of the synodal pathway and helping us to take the first steps on this journey.”
Invitation to Contribute to Synod 2021-2023
As part of the Universal Synod called by Pope Francis, all of us are invited to share our responses to four questions. Your answers to the questions will be collated into a diocesan report that will inform the meeting of Bishops from all over the world in Rome in 2023.
– What memory or experience of the Catholic Church do you value or cherish most in your life?
– How can our Church be a welcoming and inclusive community?
– How can we be listened to more effectively and encouraged to participate in decision-making processes in the Church?
– What inspires you in the life of your parish community to bring the love of Christ into the world? What discourages you?
You can share your responses via this online form:https://forms.gle/sF2diqjQt1Jdq74UA
What is a Synod?
‘Let us Journey Together!’ – A Pastoral Message from Archbishop Eamon Martin, Bishop Michael Router and the Synodal Core Group for the Archdiocese of Armagh
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Last Sunday in Rome, 10 October 2021, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, invited Catholics all over the world to come with him “on a journey” as a “Synodal Church”. The word synod means “walking together”. It indicates a way of being together as Church and “discerning” how best to spread the Gospel amidst the challenges of life in the 21st century.
On Pentecost Day the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, giving them the guidance and courage they needed to go out and spread the Good News about Jesus Christ to all the nations of the world. Like those in the early Christian Church, we pray together today, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us to discern what God wants of the Church in our time.
We encourage you to join us as we respond to Pope Francis’ call and set out on a synodal journey in the Archdiocese of Armagh. We want to involve as many people as possible so that we can harvest the ideas and wisdom of all the baptised and listen to the ‘sense of the faith’ that is alive in the People of God. Our challenge is to discern together what the Holy Spirit is telling us at this critical juncture in our history.
The theme which Pope Francis has chosen for the synodal process 2021-2023 is: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, Mission. As Catholics we are spread across the world in many different communities, large and small, but God unites us all as one. To develop greater “communion” is not to expect everyone to be the same, but to overcome divisions and to walk forward together, sharing a common path. Even within our own diocese, stretching from Magherafelt in Co Derry to Drogheda in Co Louth, there is a wide variety of parishes, movements, and communities. Hopefully, the forthcoming synodal process will bring us closer together and help us to recognise that we are united by our common baptism – as members of the Body of Christ.
The life of the Church will be much richer and more dynamic if all baptised Catholics can find ways to answer God’s call and bring a variety of gifts to the service of all. Although the faith has been handed on for centuries in Ireland, we live today in a very challenging secular environment, where, sadly, many people do not know the joy of encountering, believing in, and following, Jesus Christ. Some have lost their sense of being part of the Church and others, for various reasons, may feel they no longer wish to be involved. It is therefore important that this synodal process will be an inclusive one where we listen to others who have many different perspectives. No one is excluded. All are invited and welcome to participate.
We pray that, as we walk together on this “synodal journey”, we will find a greater sense of our shared mission to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ in faith, hope and love. How much the world today needs to encounter Christ and to understand how his Word gives ‘a reason for living’, ‘a reason for hoping’! You, the lay women and men of our diocese, have a vital role to play in this. Sometimes the work of spreading the Gospel and building the Kingdom of God is left to ordained priests and deacons, or to those who are consecrated as religious. You, however, have a special mission in witnessing to the Gospel. As baptised members of the Church, as disciples of Jesus, you are called to act in the midst of humanity to bring the Kingdom of God to life in every facet of society.
Here in the Archdiocese of Armagh over the next few months, we will be joining the worldwide synodal consultation, seeking to understand how well we are “journeying together”, and how we might, in our parishes and diocese, “journey better together”. We will soon be inviting your responses to a number of questions. You can choose to answer these as individuals, as families, as members of your parish community or any other group. We hope to gather your responses via questionnaires, online and “in person” group discussion, and a variety of social media platforms. This initial phase will lead to further opportunities for you to participate at diocesan and national level.
All the replies will be collated and sent in response to Pope Francis’ invitation to the universal Church. As he said himself last week in Rome: “Let us listen to one another”, and “Whenever we enter into dialogue, we allow ourselves to be challenged, to advance on the journey”.
This is therefore an opportunity for us to listen to the Holy Spirit and discern what God wants from the Church around the world, in Ireland and in the Archdiocese of Armagh. Please God, it will lead us to renewal and to new life in the years ahead.
Thank you, in anticipation of your support. Let us journey together!
With blessings to you all,
Archbishop Eamon Martin Bishop Michael Router
With members of the Synodal Core Group for the Archdiocese of Armagh