Archbishop Peter Comensoli and a number of Australian Catholic Bishops are part of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Oceania* which gathers every four years for a continental gathering**. They are meeting in Suva, Fiji, 5th-10th February 2023. (Videos from each day are available on the Federation of Catholic Bishops Oceania YouTube channel)
Discussions will primarily focus on care for the oceans, which is an important part of caring for our common home, as set forth by Pope Francis in Laudato si’. Participants will be listening to the cry of the earth and vulnerable peoples with visits to villages that bear the impacts of sea level rise and resource extraction
Another important focus of the Assembly will be finalising the continental (Oceania* region) response to the Synod of Bishops ‘Document for the Continental Stage’. This is a most significant document on synodality – well worth a detailed read.
Since the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis has been highlighting the importance of cultivating synodality in the Catholic Church. In his own words, synodality is the path “which God expects of the Church of the third millennium” because it is “a constitutive element of the Church.”
The fundamental question that guides this consultation of the People of God is the following: A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, “journeys together:” How is this “journeying together” happening today in your particular Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our “journeying together”?
Pope Francis called for a Synod on Synodality, to take place from 2021 to 2024. Pope Francis’ call to focus on synodality is a call to restore and deepen the understanding that the People of God journey together in a common mission as followers of the Way, Jesus Christ. It indicates a way of listening to each individual person as a member of the Church to understand more fully how God might be speaking to the whole people of God. Synodality is a reminder that the Holy Spirit works in and through each of us and draws us to work together for our common mission.
In October 2023, the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will meet in Rome under the theme, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission”.
*The Oceania regional grouping comprises the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC) – which includes Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, New Caledonia, Northern Mariana Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna.
** There are 7 Continental Synodal Assemblies happening around the world during the first quarter of 2023.