Plenary Council commences in Australia

The First General Assembly of the Fifth Plenary Council of Australia commenced on Sunday 3 October, with the Opening Mass broadcast from St Mary’s Cathedral in Perth. Led by president of the Plenary Council and Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe SDB, he said that Catholics ‘must become, even more than we are already, a community of true disciples’. 

‘Perhaps the most important thing God is asking of us at this time is to return the Church to Christ and return Christ to the Church,’ he said.

Logo for Plenary Council Australia

‘What has always been true in theory and in principle urgently needs to become true in the day-to-day experience of everyone who encounters us. We must become, even more than we are already, a community of true disciples.

‘We must become a living icon of Christ who humbled himself, taking the form of a servant. We must learn from the One who is meek and humble of heart. We are being sent by Him as He was sent by his Father. If we remain in Him, as branches remain part of the vine, we will bear much fruit.’

The 278 members of the Plenary Council, made up of bishops, priests, members of religious orders and lay people, will meet online over six days, starting on Monday 4 October.

They are called to ‘develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia’. They will contemplate an agenda that contains 16 questions across six themes: Conversion; Prayer; Formation; Structures; Governance; and Institutions. The Council’s members will engage with the agenda’s questions through listening and dialogue, using the spiritual conversations process widely used in Catholic settings.

Francis Sullivan, Chair of Catholic Social Services Australia’s daily blog

a man wearing red glasses

One of the Plenary Council member representatives is Chair of the Catholic Social Services Australia Board, Francis Sullivan AO. Each day, Francis will be providing a daily reflection on his experience of this momentous event for the Australian Catholic Church. In his reflection on the Mass, Francis wrote, ‘

‘As we assemble to discern what God is asking of the Church in Australia, I want to be ever mindful of the diversity of Catholicism in Australia. I want to resist being caught up in an image of Catholicism that is ‘too white bread’, too conventional. Rather I hope the Assembly can recognise the varieties of ‘being Catholic’ and affirm people on that journey.’

‘And related to that are the various voices from the diverse corners of our Catholic community. Throughout the consultation period leading to this Assembly many voices called for particular issues to be addressed by the Plenary Council. Such as the central concern of the full participation of women in governance and ministry. Groups like Catholic Social Services Victoria have suggested that an additional agenda item, Justice and Equity, should be included. Whether it will or not is unclear. Surely the organisers should address this upfront.’

CSSV Council’s Open Letter to Plenary Delegates

In the lead up to the first assembly of the Plenary Council beginning on 3 October 2021, the Council of Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) has written an open letter to members of the Plenary Council.

CSSV has actively been engaged in the listening and discernment processes put in place in the lead up to the Plenary Council, and this open letter was drafted after careful consideration of the six Thematic Discernment Papers, Continuing the Journey: Instrumentum Laboris, and the questions that make up the agenda for this first assembly of the Plenary Council. The letter addresses a few of the agenda questions that closely connect to the ongoing work of Catholic social services.

CSSV stands to support and continue dialogue and positive action coming from and in relation to the Plenary Council. 

From Catholic Social Services Victoria, we pray that this historic event will develop concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia. May we take up Jesus’ invitation to surrender ourselves fully in trust and hope as we prayerfully discern where the Holy Spirit is calling us! 

Tune into the Plenary Council, daily:

Each day you’re able to tune into the livestream of the daily Plenary Council Mass at 9.30am (AEDT) and the Plenary Council public general sessions from 11am-12.15am (AEDT) bar Thursday, via one of these Plenary Council links:


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