Opening Plenary Council assembly postponed

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A Sri Lankan family kneels in prayer during the Mass in St Mary’s Cathedral on Friday 26 April. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

Plenary Council organisers have postponed its first assembly which had been scheduled for October this year in Adelaide.

Plenary Council president Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said that the upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, including severe restrictions on travel and group meetings, made the “difficult, but necessary” decision unavoidable.

“Even though it is possible Australia may have moved through the worst of this health crisis by October, our capacity to adequately continue the process of discernment and formation – for everyone in the Church and in particular for the delegates – is severely compromised,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

The decision was made after the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council consulted with the advisory and planning teams and the entire Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

Archbishop Costelloe said the Church’s focus currently and for the foreseeable future is ensuring that people continue to be cared for pastorally, spiritually and emotionally during the pandemic. The bishops will consider proposals for an alternative timeline for the Council’s two assemblies at their biannual meeting in May.

“The timing, the order and the location of the two assemblies will need to be re-examined, but it is hoped that having one assembly in Adelaide and the other in Sydney might still be possible,” Archbishop Costelloe said.

Plenary Council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins said work has already begun to consider how the changed timeline provides opportunities to embed the practices of dialogue, listening and communal discernment.

“There is obvious disappointment in the postponement of the first assembly, especially so soon after the excitement of announcing the Plenary Council delegates,” she said. But once the pandemic has eased, people will have a thirst to look to the future – and the Plenary Council is about the future of the Church.”

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