Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has announced the convening of a Diocesan Assembly to be held in 2024.
The Assembly, Archbishop Costelloe explained, will consider the re-establishment of a Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) and how it will reflect a synodal church, as encouraged by Pope Francis.
The convening of the Diocesan Assembly, he continued, is a relatively modest initiative, but it is designed to set a pattern for ongoing consultation and discernment using the synodal method.
“Which I hope will become a permanent feature of the life of our Archdiocese in the future,” Archbishop Costelloe expressed.
“We must continue together along the path of becoming “a synodal Church, which is a listening Church, aware that listening is more than hearing. It is a reciprocal listening in which everyone has something to learn,” he said, referring to comments made by Pope Francis.
The establishment of a Diocesan Pastoral Council was highly encouraged by the Bishops of the Second Vatican Council.
The Archdiocese of Perth undertook detailed research and extensive consultation before it preceded to form it first Diocesan Pastoral Council (DPC) in 1973, but it was discontinued in the late nineties, according to an Australian historical study by Damian Gleeson, commissioned by the National Centre for Pastoral Research.
“Our recent Plenary Council has called for the establishment or re-establishment of such Councils in every diocese, and I believe it is appropriate for us to decide whether or not the time is now right to make such a move,” Archbishop Costelloe explained.
“It is also important to clarify why such a body might be necessary and how it should operate. The Church’s law and traditions do give some indications and establish some parameters.
“Within these, however, we have ample scope for shaping such a body according to our local needs.
“At the same time, in response to the call of Pope Francis for a more synodal Church, we might ask ourselves what a Diocesan Pastoral Council might look like it if it is a truly synodal body. These are the questions I will ask the Diocesan Assembly to consider,” he said.
Episcopal Vicar for Education and Faith Formation, and chair of the Diocesan Assembly Reference Committee, the Very Rev Fr Vincent Glynn explained that a Diocesan Pastoral Council has a pivotal role in shaping and guiding the pastoral life of the Catholic Church at the diocesan level.
Composed of clergy, religious, and laypeople, Fr Glynn explained, the DPC serves a as consultative body to the diocesan bishop, providing valuable insights, suggestions, and recommendations on matters concerning the spiritual and practical aspects of diocesan life.
The DPC would be comprised of individuals with diverse backgrounds, representing various parishes, ministries, and apostolic works within the diocese.
“By bringing together clergy and laity, a Diocesan Pastoral Council embodies the principle of co-responsibility in the Church, acknowledging the importance of collaboration and dialogue in decision-making processes,” Fr Vincent highlighted.
“By engaging in these exchanges, council members contribute to the formulation of practical and pastorally relevant solutions that address the needs of the people in the diocese,” he said.
They provide, he emphasised, an avenue for the whole diocese to discern what are the spiritual and practical aspects of the diocesan life.
“Through their active involvement in council meetings, members have the opportunity to pray and discern what the Holy Spirit is calling the Archdiocese to do, in communion, mission and participation,” Fr Vincent explained.
Fr Vincent concluded that Diocesan Pastoral Councils also hold a vital role in facilitating pastoral renewal within the diocese.
“By engaging in strategic planning, evaluating pastoral programs, and assessing the effectiveness of pastoral initiatives, a DPC contributes to the ongoing revitalisation of the local Church.
“It serves as a catalyst for innovation, encouraging the development of new approaches to evangelisation, catechesis, and social outreach.
“Through its collaborative efforts the DPC fosters a spirit of continuous growth, adaptability, and relevance in responding to the ever-evolving needs of all the people of the diocese,” he said.