Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop of Clogher, has invited priests and parishioners of his diocese to take part in a diocesan-wide discussion in advance of the Synod on the Family in the Vatican in October on the theme ‘The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World'.
In a letter to the priests and people of the diocese Bishop MacDaid invites the faithful to walk with Pope Francis saying: “Pope Francis has encouraged us to be honest and frank as we walk with him and he has stated his wish to hear and listen carefully to all voices, even those who might consider themselves to be on or beyond the threshold of faith. He has stated his wish to hear the voices of young married couples sharing their experiences of joys and sorrows and helping us to learn from both. Pope Francis is inviting us, in a fuller way than many previous generations, to help him and all Church leaders in “the task of formulating the pastoral responses to the real situation of family life around the world” as it was expressed at last year’s Extraordinary Synod.” Bishop MacDaid asks, “How could we turn our backs to such a respectful and gracious invitation?”
In his letter Bishop MacDaid outlines the timeline for the discussions in the Diocese of Clogher, and introduces a new eight-person steering committee as well as a revision of Pastoral Areas from fourteen to seven to facilitate a speedier pace of work.
The full text of the letter follows:
My dear friends,
Many of you may have taken an interest in the Extraordinary Synod on the Family which was held in Rome last autumn. The questions which Pope Francis raised for discussion by our Church leaders were refreshingly honest and pertinent. What he had to say found its way into our hearts and minds because family is common to us all. The quality of our lives and the health of our relationships are very closely related to the kind of family life we succeed in making for ourselves. Whatever damages the family hurts us all and whatever enriches family life is a blessing for us all.
We have a year now to reflect on all that was spoken at the Synod, and to assess the merit of arguments put forward. The Irish Episcopal Conference has asked that work be done and done quickly to sift and assess the material from the Synod and pass forward our reflections in time for further consideration. A summary of the content of all that was said last autumn has been put together in what are called Lineamenta. Each diocese in our country is now asked to devise a means whereby the people of the diocese can have their say and make their contribution to the national and international debate. Every diocese can make its contribution to the final outcome. It is envisaged that this conversation will take place over the next two months and come to a conclusion at Easter time.
To assist us, the Secretariat of the Irish Episcopal Conference in Maynooth has put everything in order for us under different headings and has formulated questions for us to answer. Pope Francis has encouraged us to be honest and frank as we walk with him and he has stated his wish to hear and listen carefully to all voices, even those who might consider themselves to be on or beyond the threshold of faith. He has stated his wish to hear the voices of young married couples sharing their experiences of joys and sorrows and helping us to learn from both.
Pope Francis is inviting us, in a fuller way than many previous generations, to help him and all Church leaders in “the task of formulating the pastoral responses to the real situation of family life around the world” as it was expressed at last year’s Extraordinary Synod. How could we turn our backs to such a respectful and gracious invitation?
In tackling the questions put before us, we are asked to share our experience of married and family life and to ask ourselves how well or how badly our local Church supports and provides pastoral care for married couples and families. Such an examination should help us to strengthen and renew this pastoral care in such a way that the smiles that come from the pram and light up adult faces will always be there, moving everyone to say that life is good.
To assist with the task put before us I have asked eight people to act as a Steering Committee. To facilitate a speedier pace of work, we have condensed our Pastoral Areas from fourteen into seven. The first level of consultation will be to converse with the priests within these groupings. The questions will be formulated by the Steering Committee who will facilitate the consultation process. It will not be compulsory for each participant to read all the Lineamenta but it is to be hoped that most will read and reflect on the twenty or so pages which can be downloaded from: www.vatican.va/roman_curia/synod/index.htm
When the initial phase of consultation has been completed, the Steering Committee will move into a deeper and more comprehensive phase involving a small number of priests and religious and a much bigger number of lay people from all walks and corners of life. To ensure that the process remains manageable the total number of participants involved in each cluster of pastoral areas will be approximately fifty.
This will include representatives of organisations and bodies which work closely with married couples and children. The purpose of this restriction is certainly not to exclude. It will be open to all groups and individuals to make a separate contribution of their own with the guarantee that it will be treated with the same are and respect as all other contributions that are submitted within the time limit which is Friday, 6 March next at 5pm.
Truly this is a rather special moment in history when the successor of Saint Peter humbly invites all the baptised to assist in finding solutions to pastoral problems. Let us be grateful and grasp the opportunity, while we ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in wisdom and love on our pilgrim way.
+Liam S MacDaid
16 January 2015
Read more about the Diocese of Clogher here: www.clogherdiocese.ie/
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