Synod to discuss reform and faith crisis in Ireland

Catholic bishops are planning a synod to look at Ireland’s crisis of faith, address the need for reform and renewal, and respond to the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic. All sections of the Irish Church will be brought together at the synod.

Two Irish Catholic bishops, Paul Dempsey of Achonry and Fintan Gavin of Cork and Ross (pictured) announced the plans at an online webinar address ‘The Synod on Synods’ by Jesuit theologian Fr Gerry O’Hanlon.

Dempsey, one of the newest and youngest members of the Irish hierarchy, says he is part of a subcommittee of six bishops within the Irish Bishops Conference which is “actually working towards a synod in the near future.”

The group has already met with and received advice from Cardinal Mario Grech.

Grech, a top Vatican prelate, is Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.

Dempsey told members of the Association of Catholic Priests (ACP) and other Catholic reform groups taking part in the webinar that the synod will not be an end in itself. Instead it will develop plans to set out “a way of being Church” in Ireland.

Many Irish Catholics hope a synod will reinvigorate the Irish Church. They are looking to it to give the Church’s declining number of lay faithful a voice in any programme for renewal and change to make it fit for purpose in the 21st century.

The Irish synod is expected to be announced by the bishops after their next meeting, Gavin says.

“Hopefully after the next bishops’ conference, we [will] begin that process of conversation, engagement and dialogue.”

Gavin appealed to people to respond to the bishops’ openness because he felt that a synod was “the way forward” to address Ireland’s faith crisis.

However, Dempsey said: “We just don’t want it to end in a synod; it has to be something that continues in the life of the Irish Church.”

Dempsy hinted the synod will be inclusive rather than exclusive.

“We are really conscious that this can’t just be an in-house synod – that it has to reach out to the various groups within our Church, and indeed, our country at this time.

“So please, God, we will walk together, and we will struggle maybe together to see where we might go as an Irish Church at this time.”


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