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Church controversies will not ‘destroy us’ at synod: Archbishop Timothy Costelloe

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Pope Francis meets with members of the preparatory commission for the general assembly of the Synod of Bishops in the library of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on 16 March 2023, the day after the synod office announced their appointments. The seven members include: Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas; Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth, president of the Australian bishops’ conference; and Mercedarian Sister Shizue “Filo” Hirota from Tokyo. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

The preparatory commission for the 2023-24 Synod on Synodality have concluded their first meeting with Pope Francis, and have noted the high expectations and anxiety prior to the synod’s first meeting in October 2023.

The seven-member commission met at the Vatican from 13-16 March for what Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville, Texas, described as an “orientation” meeting.

Members have been told they will read and review all the reports from the continental stage of the synod reflection, assist in preparing the synod working document and help during the synod itself. The commission members were not told if they would be full voting members of the synod, but he said it is likely.

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Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB of Perth, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, was appointed to the preparatory commission after steering the Australian church’s through four years of the Plenary Council, which concluded in July 2022.

He told CNS that the Plenary Council helped him accept that controversial issues facing the church may not all be resolved at the synod.

“There’s a wisdom and maturity about saying, ‘Well, at the moment it’s clear that we’re not able to resolve this issue. Are we therefore going to allow it to tear us apart? Or are we going to just accept that for the moment?'” Archbishop Costelloe said.

“We live in this rather messy and non-satisfactory situation, but we’re not going to allow it to destroy us.”

The bishops, Archbishop Costelloe told CNS, noticed “some consultation fatigue,” but also were impressed with how the prayerful listening done before the Plenary Council became almost second nature during the synod listening sessions.

Having an atmosphere of “prayer and deep reflection” at the plenary, he said, “seemed to me to create a deep sense of respect for each other,” and he hopes that will be repeated at the synod assembly in Rome in October.

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