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Pope Francis arrives to celebrate the closing Mass of the Synod of Bishops on the family in St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in October 2015 (CNS/Paul Haring)

When Pope Francis decided to extend the Synod on Synodality into 2024, I was pleased and a little relieved, writes Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge. Source: NCR Online.

One of the early surprises in the pontificate of Pope Francis was his decision to hold not one but two synods on marriage and the family. The first, for the presidents of the world’s bishops’ conferences, was in 2014, and the second, for elected representatives of those conferences, was in 2015.

I was curious when the announcement was made, thinking that the Pope’s decision took its cue from the Second Vatican Council, with its four sessions where the time between sessions was a crucial period of fermentation.

I became more curious when, to my surprise, I was elected as one of the two Australian representatives to the second synod in 2015. As part of my preparation, I studied the Second Vatican Council, especially the work of the late Jesuit Fr. John O’Malley. I could see more clearly that the council was a process rather than an event, and that the two synods (or the one synod with two sessions) were also a process rather than an event.

I came to see that synodality meant not a gathering of some of the bishops some of the time but a journey of all of the Church all of the time.

When I heard that Francis had decided to extend the Synod into 2024, I was pleased and a little relieved. The experience of the Second Vatican Council, the 2014 and 2015 synods and the Australian Plenary Council, also held over two sessions, suggests that this is another sign of the Holy Spirit at work in this process, which seeks to change the way we are as the Church at a time when we may have thought that real change was behind us.

But real change takes time, which, as the Pope insists, is greater than space.


Australian archbishop: Real change takes time, which the extended synod gives us (By Archbishop Mark Coleridge, NCR Online