Oceans, synodality and a shared mission – Oceania’s bishops meet up

Dozens of Oceania’s Catholic bishops, including four from New Zealand, are in Fiji on a shared mission.

The Federation of Catholic Bishops Conferences of Oceania gather together every four years to reflect on and pray about their shared mission in the region.

Among those present are representatives from bishops conferences in Australia,  Papua New Guinea/Solomon Islands and the Pacific Islands, as well as New Zealand.

Completing their joint response to the working document for the continental stage for the global Synod of Bishops is an important part of the week’s work.

So is the theme “Save the Ocean to Save Mother Earth”; it is included in the Continental phase of the Synod on Synodality.

The work programme

Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, gave the conference’s opening address on Sunday, highlighting the its twin themes: climate change and synodality.

“Climate change falls under ‘care for our common home,’ which here also means care for the ocean,” he said.

He recognised the many tensions that affect the region – including unsustainable exploitation of ocean resources, human trafficking, migration and geo-political rivalries.

In response, the Church proposes “integral human development,” he said.

The Church must “enrich the present with good” by accompanying people. This must begin with listening to them, he stressed.

The synodal process must begin with “real conversion,” including admitting “our personal and collective complicity in the degradation of our environment, and the dire consequences of such on poor and marginalised communities.”

But the work being done in Oceania is not being done in isolation, he added.

“In this voyage of discovery and transformation, you are not out on the ocean alone. Pope Francis, the Roman Curia, the Synod Secretariat, the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development are with you.”

First and foremost, their work involves “recognising and supporting the work that the Bishops do for the Gospel and the Church”, plus helping ensure “peoples may have abundant life in Christ”, he explained.

During the week, each of the four Episcopal Conferences has shown a video focusing on the synodal journey undertaken in their territories and have seen an additional video expressing the ocean’s voice. They have also seen firsthand the effects of changes to the climate and environment.

Dunedin’s Bishop Michael Dooley is adamant action from the Church and its leaders on climate issues is necessary.

“I think, as a Church, we need to speak on behalf of those people, the vulnerable people who often don’t have an opportunity to have their voices heard.

Auckland’s Bishop Steve Lowe echoed this view when he celebrated Mass on Wednesday. In his homily he asked the bishops to advocate for the poor, and the Earth, to be a breath of life.

Becoming more synodal

To help the bishops in their quest for synodality, Vatican speaker, Sr Nathalie Becquart provided a presentation. She compared synodality to a person who develops over time, but remains the person he or she is.

Synodality can only be learned together, she explained. It is inherent in the Church’s identity – therefore the topic of the current synod is actually the Church’s identity.




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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

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