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Brisbane Synod (letter)

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 Contents - Jun 2003AD2000 June 2003 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Three Feasts: Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity - Peter Westmore
Liturgy: John Paul's new encyclical on the Eucharist targets liturgical abuses - Michael Gilchrist
AD2000 staff members awarded federation Centenary Medals - AD2000
News: The Church Around the World - AD2000
Interview: Vatican II and the liturgy, 40 years later - Zenit News Service
Events: Corpus Christi Procession - Brisbane, 22 June 2003
The environment: rediscovering the balanced Catholic perspective - Michael Casanova
Laity: The role of lay Catholics in a time of crisis - Mary Ann Glendon
Those dreadful old Catholic hymns? - Fr Fabian Duggan OSB
The seal of confession: how a priest put his life on the line - Clem Lack
Letters: Eucharistic encyclical and the priesthood (letter) - John Kelly
Letters: Requirements fulfilled (letter) - John Young
Letters: Four conditions (letter) - Fr G.H. Duggan SM
Letters: Holy Orders (letter) - Francis Vrijmoed
Letters: Brisbane Synod (letter) - Alistair Barros
Letters: Catechetics (letter)
Letters: Teilhard de Chardin (letter) - Grahame Fallon
Letters: Latin Mass (letter) - Philip Robinson
Letters: Death by 'nice blokes' (letter) - Lisa-Maree
Letters: Abortion (letter) - Betty Griffin
Letters: Prayer to Our Lady of Good Counsel (letter) - Marie E. Curtin
Books: Culture and the Thomist Tradition : After Vatican II, by Tracey Rowland - Fr Peter Joseph STD (reviewer)
Books: From Physics to Metaphysics, by Fr Francis J. Selman - Michael Casanova
Books: The Story of Christianity : 2000 Years of Faith - Anthony Cappello (reviewer)
Books: Family in the Bible, edited by Richard H. Hess and M. Danial Carroll - Bill Muehlenberg (reviewer)
Books: Our books are the cheapest!
Reflection: Church scandals: focus on the message, not just the messengers - Fr Kevin Brannelly

Two years of thinking, gathering, debating, working within the tyranny of consensus, seeing ideas dissolve and new ones emerge, rubbing shoulders with priests and religious, and above all, hoping and praying, have come to an end. Whatever can be said of Synod 2003 (1-4 May) at this point, one thing is for certain - it's been exhausting!

Decentralised deliberation of Church directions through synod is a vision of Vatican II still unfolding. Pope John Paul II has boldly engaged it. Archbishop Bathersby has shown extraordinary faith in the movement of the Holy Spirit, extending the gift of synod to a largely lay delegation.

With the insight of Fr Richard John Neuhaus' portrait of the American Synod 1997, Appointment in Rome, in the background, I'm struck by the flawless operation by Brisbane's Office of the Synod, and in the end, the emergence of some fresh wheat among expected chaff.

All outcomes and implementations of the seven action proposals developed during the consultation and preparation phases were refined and carried in clear majorities (85%-99%).

On a fresh note, for instance, is "Effective Communication" carrying the imperative of re-evangelisation - a signature theme of the Pope and the episcopal synods of the 90s. The Synod identified a number of ways in which Jesus Christ and the voice of the Church should be taken to the outside world, despite everything. Among these is a pro-active presence in the media through a regular newspaper commentary by the Archbishop, flanked by a public advisory group.

Another proposal is "Building Communities of Faith", which seeks archdiocesan facilitation of small group formation, stronger parish and school connection, lay pastoral leadership, and promotion of priesthood, diaconate and religious life. In this proposal, too, are the highest priority outcomes chosen by the Synod, namely "welcoming, vibrant and inclusive liturgies" and "inclusive communities".

Such calls are hardly new and indicate, for me at any rate, a latent anthropocentricism which sits at odds with what I think people inside and outside the Church yearn for, namely holiness and transcendence. This is at least alluded to in calls for sanctity through church environments and worship in "Celebrating Liturgy".

It was evident after the Synod's opening Mass, where the celebration and music drew praise of ethereal heights. Calls for doctrinal change, however, need to be tempered by admissions implied in "Education in Faith". During the consultation phase of the Synod, the loudest message was "we need to be educated".

In the end, the Synod vindicated the most repeated of Archbishop Bathersby's convictions - young people as the important future and present of the Church. Asked to nominate its priorities, the Synod chose mainly high-school students to speak to the assembly. Their exuberance, affirming a personal relationship with Jesus and living out His vision in our lives, will for years be seen as a paradoxical sign of the Holy Spirit's presence in a Brisbane burdened by an exodus the faithful.

Camira, Qld

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 16 No 5 (June 2003), p. 14

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