Pope Francis has approved plans for a national plenary council of the Catholic Church in Australia in 2020.
It will be the country’s first in more than 80 years and the first to include lay men and women and religious in its preparation, celebration, and implementation processes.
The 2020 Plenary Council will be the highest possible formal gathering of the Church in Australia, with the power to make changes to its legislation and governance.
The council will be officially launched at Pentecost on May 20, 2018, and all Catholics are invited to participate in the dialogue process that will set the agenda for the first session in 2020.
Pope Francis also endorsed the national bishops’ nomination of Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB as the council’s president.
Archbishop Costelloe said he was honoured by his appointment and holds great hope that the council will bring about a period of authentic renewal in the Church.
“This is a significant moment for the Catholic Church in Australia and I look forward to walking with the people of God as we look towards the future,” he said.
“I encourage all Catholics, whether devout or disillusioned, fervent or frustrated, to seize this opportunity to speak what is on their minds and in their hearts.”
Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, chair of the Bishops Commission for the Plenary Council, expressed gratitude to Pope Francis for affirming the bishops’ decision to hold the plenary.
“The Council will be a unique opportunity for people to come together and listen to God in all the ways God speaks to us, and in particular by listening to one another as together we discern what God is asking of us at this time – a time when the Church in Australia is facing significant challenges,” he said.
“We sincerely hope the preparation and celebration of the plenary council is a time when all parts of the Church listen to and dialogue with one another as we explore together how we might answer the question: ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia?’”
Plenary council facilitator Lana Turvey-Collins, who has been seconded for the role from Catholic Mission, said that all are invited to share their story of faith and their experience of the Church particularly those who are “marginalised, vulnerable or distant from the Church”.
Locations and dates for the two council sessions are yet to be finalised, with the first likely to be October 2020 and the second in May 2021.
For more information visit the website plenarycouncil.catholic.org.au