This will be the first plenary council held in Australia since 1937. Nearly 300 delegates, called “members,” will attend the in-person meetings on behalf of their dioceses, eparchies, or religious orders.
The Vatican originally gave permission in 2016 for the Australian plenary council to be held. Originally scheduled for Oct. 2020, the council was delayed from last year because of the pandemic.
While many Catholic parishes, schools, and hospitals are thriving across the country, the Church in Australia faces a number of serious challenges, Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney told The Catholic Weekly.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses of Child Sexual Abuse released a report in 2017 that found serious failings in the protection of children from abuse in the Catholic Church and other major institutions in the country. The Australian bishops' conference responded positively to nearly all the Royal Commission's recommendations.
The abuse crisis and the royal commission “brought with them much justified criticism and understandable disillusionment, continuing scrutiny and demands for reform, not only to ensure that all church situations are safe for children and vulnerable adults, but also to ensure transparency and accountability in all areas of ecclesial life,” Archbishop Fisher reflected.
A culture of secularism in Australian society, as well as a declining religious practice among Catholics, are among the priorities to be discussed at the meeting, Archbishop Fisher said.
Currently only 1 in 10 Catholics in Australia regularly attends Mass, he said, and the Church in Australia is experiencing a vocations crisis, not only of the priesthood, but also of marriage and religious life.
“It is with great hope and anticipation that we as Catholics in Australia enter into this fifth Plenary Council in our short history, with a common desire that the Church in Australia experiences a greater conversion under the influence of the Spirit of Christ and is renewed and ultimately better equipped to proclaim the unchanging Gospel with new ardour and vitality,” Ang said.
“Our Catholic tradition is none other than the Church’s reception of Jesus through time under the guidance of this Holy Spirit and in this time of challenge and opportunity for the Church in Australia it is incumbent upon us to seek out, receive and now voice in the days ahead what this Spirit is saying to the churches.”
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from news bureaus on three continents and was awarded the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.