A REPRESENTATIVE gathering of Australian Roman Catholics from around the country is currently meeting virtually in the first Plenary Council (the highest formal gathering of all local churches in a country) held since 1937. This first session of the council will conclude on Sunday, and a second session is to be held in July next year.
The 278 members, comprising all the 46 bishops and invited priests, deacons, religious, and laypeople, is examining current issues for the Church, including shrinking church attendance, the shortage of priests, the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the part played by women. The agenda for the meeting contains 16 questions on the themes of conversion, prayer, formation, structures, governance, and institutions.
The meeting follows a consultation that invited RCs to submit their views. More than 200,000 people participated, and there were more than 17,000 written submissions.
Speaking on a national radio programme, the RC Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Revd Mark Coleridge, said that it could not be “business as usual” for the Church. The position of women, he said, would be “central and fundamental” to the discussions.