Diocesan Synod syntheses made public

Synod Synthesis

Catholic dioceses in New Zealand have completed their synodal consultation and submitted their diocesan synod synthesis to the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference (NZCBC), reports Mr David McLoughlin, NZCBC Communications Adviser.

An unrealistic deadline for southern hemisphere countries who were enjoying a summer holiday saw Pope Francis extend the diocesan deadline by four months.

“A universal 4-month extension by the Vatican of the Diocesan phase was warmly welcomed,” says the Wellington synthesis.

The synodal process was also hampered by repeated Covid-19 State lockdowns and a societal post-lockdown hesitancy to engage in in-person meetings.

Covid-19 “frustrated a number of respondents who felt constrained by the use of technological tools such as Zoom, believing that gathering digitally significantly reduced the spiritual nature of the process. For others this highlighted the lack of access to technological responses of certain communities,” says the Auckland synthesis.

While some dioceses attempted to explain the demographic mix of individual participants, they universally remain unreported.

“The data is highly likely to be skewed,” a statistician told CathNews.

“It’s unclear exactly how many people participated in the overall process, what percentage of Catholics participated, who they ‘represented’ and who was un-represented,” she said.

The statistician said that skewed data does not invalidate the process, but it does need to be taken into consideration when examining outcomes.

By way of example, she cited an issue deliberately chosen because it is not mentioned in any of the syntheses; receiving Holy Communion on the tongue.

“Because the process is an all-comers model and not scientifically representative it is possible for the outcomes possibly to be sub-consciously hijacked,” she said.

“For example, while those involved favoured Holy Communion on the tongue, the vast majority of those who were not involved are possibly happy with communion in the hand.

“There is really no way of knowing.

“Thankfully the Church is not a democracy, and theology, prayer, discernment and discussion are important parts of this process.”

However, she warned that these sorts of meetings and processes can “create a world and an expectation that can’t be sustained.”

Emphasising the purpose of the synod is not to write documents, says the Secretary of the NZCBC, Bishop Steve Lowe. The Synod’s purpose is to answer the question ‘how do we as a Church journey together?’

Following up the initial Diocesan phase, representatives from dioceses, parishes, schools, priests and religious orders will now attend a meeting at St Catherine’s College, Kilbirnie, Wellington on Saturday 2 July, to discuss the feedback syntheses from the six dioceses.

The purpose of the St Catherine’s College meeting is to prepare a national synthesis for the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops.

The General Secretariat establishes connections between various synodal assemblies around the world.

The 16th Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will conclude in October next year in Rome.

Selected bullet points from the Diocesan Syntheses


  • New models of leadership in dioceses
  • Priest focus on sacraments, not management
  • A married and celibate clergy
  • Transparent involvement in the appointment of bishops
  • Inclusion of women in ministry and decision making
  • Liturgical reform – change the language of the liturgy
  • Catechetical reform that is non-judgmental and inclusive, never moralistic
  • Update sexual moral teaching in line with modern science and people’s lived experience
  • Welcoming intercommunion between Christians
  • Welcoming of LGBTQI+ people without judgment
  • Welcome everyone to the Eucharistic table without judgment
  • Encouraging leadership that accepts change
  • Emphasise the universal call to holiness.

The full Wellington Archdiocese synthesis.


  • Reform the formation of clerics
  • Optional celibacy for priests
  • Ordination of women
  • Appropriate formation for lay people
  • Welcoming liturgical language that is inclusive, less misogynistic, less hierarchical and that reflects contemporary theology
  • Synodal Church governance not restricted to clerics
  • Transparent appointment of bishops
  • Women equitably present in Church structures and decision-making bodies

The Auckland section also dedicated a second section to itself entitled “Calls to the local Church”.

The full Auckland Diocese synthesis.


  • Deepen community
  • Grow in faith
  • To know Christ
  • Reawaken identity as disciples of Christ
  • Reach out to the margins
  • To be part of a solution rather than a problem
  • Improved catechesis
  • Importance of prayer
  • Mission of the laity and how the laity can do more
  • Lay involvement in governance and decision making
  • A new way of communication
  • Continued transparency and accountability
  • Concern for the younger generation; Church is too antiquated for young people
  • Relevant liturgy
  • Rediscovering the important aspect of Church teaching and practice
  • Ordination of women

The full Hamilton Diocese synthesis.

Palmerston North

  • Bi-culturalism through use of te reo, tikanga
  • Include multi-cultural elements
  • Re-orient towards mission in this time and place
  • The mission of the laity but concern about how to do it
  • Need for robust digital strategy – faith learning, virtual parishes, entertainment
  • Better communication
  • Change in current leadership models
  • Change in how the liturgy is celebrated
  • Safeguarding
  • Welcoming migrants
  • Welcoming LGBTQI+
  • Develop the relationship between schools (seen as welcoming) and parishes (seen as exclusive).
  • Wanting an encounter with God
  • Less clerical more lay leadership
  • Inclusive of women at all levels including priesthood
  • Welcoming to Māori, migrants, the deaf, poor, divorced or separated, LGBTQI+ and conservative traditionalist Catholics
  • Closing the cultural gap
  • Be a Christian community
  • Liturgical reform
  • More opportunities for faith formation.

The full Palmerston North Diocese synthesis.


  • Change the language of the liturgy to be inclusive
  • In-depth formation for those delivering homilies
  • Honour different cultures in the liturgy
  • Better liturgical hymns
  • Collaborative leadership at all levels includes women; priest does not have the final word
  • Participation through recognised talents and exploration of the baptismal priesthood
  • Young people
  • Women
  • Māori and immigrants
  • Divorced and remarried
  • Bi-culturalism
  • Multi-culturalism
  • Clergy need to be more welcoming
  • Service with a focus on social justice and the corporal works of mercy
  • Formation for: community, scripture, leadership training, modern life, science and religion and ecological morality
  • Openness to being ecumenical
  • Reducing the dualism in homilies
  • Renewed willingness to examine and implement Vatican II’s liturgical changes

The full Christchurch Diocese synthesis.


  • Inclusion
  • Non-judgemental approach to sacraments for LGBTQI+, divorced and remarried
  • Support and bless gay relationships and those wanting to remarry
  • Respect multi-culturalism with inclusion in liturgy
  • Support of bi-culturalism
  • Inclusion of all the baptised in decision-making and leadership
  • Include women in church leadership and liturgy
  • Co-responsibility between clergy and laity
  • Growing the confidence of the laity
  • Lack of young people at Mass
  • Mass not resonating with many in the wider church family
  • Connecting parishes and schools
  • Embrace those who like the Latin Mass
  • Develop a more modern appeal to the Mass
  • Engagement of the Church in the wider community: environment, care for poor, being pro-life in the fuller sense of the word, inequality, justice, peace, equity in the world, ecumenism, modern day slavery and human trafficking
  • Belonging to groups outside the Mass community
  • Local communities vital.

The full Dunedin Diocese synthesis.

Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

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