There are many ways to be Catholic

Many ways to be Catholic

There are many ways to be Catholic.

The comment comes from the West Australian archbishop and member of the preparatory committee for the General Assembly of the Synod, Timothy Costelloe.

He says that ongoing consultation with Catholics worldwide needs to give more deference to local church authorities.

Pope Francis’s global synod – which began in 2021 and finishes next year – shows just how diverse the Church is and the various ways people express their Catholic faith, says Costelloe.

A significant feature of synodality is the understanding that unity does not call for uniformity within the Catholic Church, he says.

“One of the most important things that we are experiencing on the journey, and that we experienced very powerfully during these continental assemblies is that there is, in fact, more than one way of being the Church.

“I think that’s a very important thing and something that’s emerging as a significant feature of this synodal journey.”

Different ways of being Catholic have always been a part of the Church, Costelloe says.

Therefore, it is something “we need to acknowledge more and more to celebrate and be grateful to God.

“I would say that what is happening, both in the ideal world, but also in reality, is that we’re beginning to experience a profound unity, which is not only not grounded in uniformity … we all know, unity and uniformity are not the same thing.”

Costello says there’s “almost universal appreciation of the process and a desire that we do not go backwards.

We’ve found something precious in the life of the church, which has great potential for the future and that we need to continue down this pathway to the future, to be more fully the church that we’re supposed to be.”

Just the same, the Synod cannot be reduced to just a few concerns, he cautions.

“It’s really a synod on how the church, as it grows in its understanding of being a synodal church, can find more productive or more fruitful ways of beginning to grapple with all of these issues,” he says.

Synod’s ‘continental phase’ finished

Costelloe’s remarks came during a Vatican press conference last week, marking the conclusion of the continental phase of the three-year synod process.

During February and March, seven continental meetings took place.

At these, attendees reflected on themes that emerged during the first phase of the synod process, which included tens of thousands of listening sessions with Catholics worldwide.

After the second phase of those gatherings, the third phase will include two month-long assemblies in Rome in October 2023 and October 2024.


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