Australian Bishops On The Road Together at the Family Synod in Rome

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
9 Oct 2015

Archbishop of Brisbane Most Rev Mark Coleridge at the Opening Mass of the Synod

Work is well and truly underway  with 270 bishops taking part in the Synod on the Family at the Vatican including Australia's Archbishop of Brisbane, the Most Rev Mark Coleridge and from Darwin Bishop Eugene Hurley.

The Synod, more formally the XIV Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, commenced on Sunday 4th October with an Opening Mass in St Peter's Basilica celebrated by Pope Francis.

It will run for three weeks until 25 October.

Archbishop Coleridge and Bishop Hurley lodged their petitio lolquendi or request to speak at the Synod earlier in the week .

A most challenging task, not only in  content but timing.  Bishops are allowed just three minutes to speak before the gathering taking place in the Paul VI Hall at the Vatican.

At the time Archbishop Coleridge remarked on his  "On the Road Together" blog on the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference website it will be interesting to see how many bishops stick to the three minutes time limit.

Bishop Eugene Hurley of Darwin also attending the Synod

"It's won't be easy and a few could have the mic turned off on them - which bishops aren't used to."

However Archbishop Coleridge got through  - with a few seconds to spare  when called on to speak on Day Two.

He wrote on his blog; " The procession of speeches was rapid-fire compared with earlier Synods where they were longer.  Many of the speakers - including myself remarkably - were under the 3-minute limit.  I must have spoken faster than I planned.  But it's hard to be substantial in such a short space: you can certainly say something, but it has to be very concise.  Bit like a Tweet.

"It's clear even now that the real action of the Synod won't be in these short speeches but in the more ample work of the small groups that begins today.  After the long series of speeches, we began the last hour of what's called free discussion.  It's not all that free, with some of the speakers actually reading texts which is not exactly my sense of what free discussion means.

"My view is that texts shouldn't be allowed in that hour's discussion.  We don't need more set-piece speeches, especially given that there's a 4-minute limit for the free discussion.  It just means longer speeches.

"But there were some lively unscripted interventions, which showed that this hour at the end of the day could be important.  The interventions showed that there are still uncertainties about the new format and its workability.  The Secretary General, Cardinal Baldisseri, gave a long and impassioned defence of the format proposed, so we'll see how it works out."

Pope Francis opens the first session with prayer

Eventually following interventions, discussions and smaller working groups, a group of ten will supervise the production of the Synod's final document.
However there is already some "unease" about discussion on key issues, according to Archbishop Coleridge.

".........uneasy about the impression given by the presentation of Cardinal Erdo in the morning that some key questions are already decided and seemingly off the table.  They felt that such a stance was premature.  All of this will feed into the messier but probably more productive work of the small groups where more voices will be heard in a freer setting where we will be able not just to make statements but to discuss issues.

"It will pass eventually into the hands of Pope Francis who was in the Hall for the whole day, keeping his head down following the papers (and monitor) in front of him, listening carefully and barely raising his head through the sessions.  But he's also hard at work outside the sessions, as you can see from this shot of him entering the Hall for the afternoon sessions.  He's always tapping someone on the shoulder for a quick word; and you can bet they're not discussing the weather."

Pope Francis talking with delegates
between sessions

In an interview with John J. Allen Jnr in The Crux, Archbishop Coleridge answered questions on some of the more contentious issues the bishops will also face, for example allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive Communion - a proposal by the German Cardinal Walter Kasper.

Asked if there were a vote on the issue now at the Synod how would it go, Archbishop Coleridge said; "I think it is about 65-35 against, and it's been clarified over the last year. I think there would certainly be a majority of bishops - this is a guess, but an informed guess - who would not favour the Kasper proposal."

For further n The Road Together blogs  ACBC Media Blog

For the complete interview in The Crux