Synod National Synthesis Released

(Photo: the national synthesis team, from the CBCEW website)

The Synod National Synthesis was released yesterday, on 28June 2022. Prepared by the National Synthesis team for the Bishops Conference, it reflects the Synod Reports from each of the Dioceses across England and Wales. These in turn summarised the contributions of an estimated 30000 submissions from across all the dioceses in England and Wales.

A Wounded Church

The Synthesis acknowledges that the Church  is “significantly wounded in its ability to act according to its own mission, to let its goodness shine out, and to live its life in a way that expresses the beauty of the faith”. It needs healing and conversion, particularly in the way it fails to welcome; the relationships between clergy and laity; the widespread perception of “the church” as something belonging exclusively to the clergy; the absence of any culture of participation and collaboration; the lack of formation of laity and clergy alike in mission-critical issues; and the failure to communicate effectively.

These wounds all hamper the Church in its ability to fulfil its mission.

Truth, Mercy and Welcome

“The vision of a Church that does not firstly judge and exclude but unconditionally embraces”

The synthesis records strong critiques of the way the Church teaches, presents itself, and operates. There is a strong desire shining through, for a Church that performs God’s mercy as well as proclaims His truth – “to live better the tension of truth and mercy, as Jesus did”. This is manifested in key facets of Church behaviour causing widespread unhappiness: 

  • the perceived inconsistency and hypocrisy in the way some Church teachings are enforced (e.g. matrimony, divorce, Holy Orders and the Eucharist)
  • the perceived failure to welcome, and in particular to recognise and integrate various groups or categories of people, especially women, young people, LGBTQ+, the divorced and remarried, the traveller community, people of colour or with additional needs, and traditionalists

Towards a synodal church

“If there is a single, overriding melody in the synod symphony, it is in the desire for a more fraternal and sororal Church in which God’s overflowing, universal love can be more palpably felt and lived”

The Synthesis affirms that our mission is deeply bound up with our communion in Jesus Christ, and that this communion gives the church “the face of synodality.”

Although the process has been stumbling, uneven and very limited so far, participants have found the experience both novel and transformative. There is a widespread enthusiasm for synodality as “the way of being church”, and a call for church authorities to take the necessary steps now to embed the processes, structures and the cultural changes into dioceses and parishes.

A number of recommendations are set out to move us forward on the path of synodality, including development of parish councils, mechanisms for listening and consultation, communications, small groups to promote personal conversion, formation in discernment and synodal processes.

The Synthesis concludes by declaring that the Spirit has, through the Synod, awakened a new sense of responsibility in the faithful here for the conversion of the Church which we must respond to with confidence without waiting on others to enact this change or that new structure.

The Conference of Bishops are to meet this week to discern, discuss and respond to this Synthesis.

The full National Synthesis can be found here

Season of Creation 2022

September 1st to October 4th

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the

 whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we

 know that things can change. The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us.” Laudato Si  para 13 

The Season of Creation begins on 1 September, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, and ends 4 October, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.

The symbol chosen for this year is the burning bush, which contrasts the light of the HolySpirit that unites Christians with the wild fires that are exacerbating the climate crisis.

Though 1st September may seem a long way off, please spend a little time in the coming weeks considering how you and your family can play your part in the Season of Creation.

• Advocacy: Raise your voice for climate justice by joining CAFOD’s Fix the Food System campaign.

• Prayer: Host an ecumenical prayer service that unites all Christians to care for our common home or

  • Sustainability: Organise an event reaching a wider public to help people to reflect on the current situation and what we can all do to make a difference. 

Caritas Plymouth may be able to help with funding for refreshments and speakers (email caritas@prcdtr.org.uk).

You can find out more on the Diocesan website at  http://www.plymouth-diocese.org.uk/the-diocese/how-we- work/environment/season-of-creation/.   More resources will be added in the coming weeks.

The Three Sisters

A perfect example of Agro-ecology and permaculture

 Did you know that corn, beans, and squash are called the “Three Sisters”? A number of Native American tribes interplanted this trio because they thrive together, much like three inseparable sisters. Instead of single rows of a single vegetable, this method of interplanting introduces biodiversity, which does many things—from attracting pollinators to making the land richer instead of stripping it of nutrients. 

Each of the sisters contributes something different and together, they provide a balanced diet from a single planting. 

  • The corn offers the beans necessary support.
  • The climbing beans pull nitrogen from the air and bring it to the soil for the benefit of all three. 

Image credit: University of Illinois Extension

  • As the beans grow through the tangle of squash vines and wind their way up the cornstalks into the sunlight, they hold the sisters close together.
  • The large leaves of the sprawling squash protect the threesome by creating living mulch that shades the soil, keeping it cool and moist and preventing weeds.
  • The prickly squash leaves also keep away rabbits and other pests, which don’t like to step on them.

Together, they provide both sustainable soil fertility as well as a healthy diet. 

How to Plant the Three Sisters

There are variations to the Three Sisters method, but the idea is to plant the sisters in clusters on low wide mounds rather than in a single traditional row.

Before planting, choose a sunny location (at least 6 hours of full sun every day).

Plant the beans and squash when the corn is between 6” and a foot high.

Information taken from.   https://www.almanac.com/content/three-sisters-corn-bean-and-squash#

Synod 2021-23 update

Members of the hierarchy, clergy, and laity, who have coordinated the diocesan synodal conversations in England and Wales, recently participated in a National Synod Day in Southwark

Closing the day’s proceedings, Cardinal Nichols said “In this upper room, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we have had a unique window on the life of the Church in England and Wales – not complete, but a glimpse, a panorama, that we rarely see drawn together in this way. We are learning the art of listening, the discipline of listening, which does not come naturally, but is something that requires self-control and humility. We are learning that. This is a hugely important quality in the life of the Church which has not always been present.”

A Diocesan Response

While we wait for the National Synthesis, we thought that readers might be interested to compare the overlaps and differences in responses, by reading our very short (500 word) summary of the Report from Salford Diocese here

England to get third Cardinal

(photo from Vatican News)

On Sunday 29 May, Pope Francis announced that Yorkshire-born Archbishop Arthur Roche will be made a Cardinal in a ceremony on 27 August, making him the third English cardinal and one of two cardinals from England eligible to vote in any future conclave to elect a new pope.

Archbishop Roche is one of  21 new cardinals mostly from distant corners of the world, including two Indian bishops, an Italian missionary serving in Mongolia, and bishops in Singapore, Ghana, Nigeria and East Timor. Sixteen of the new cardinals are within the age limit for any future conclave.  Archbishop Roche’s promotion follows his appointment last year to lead Vatican’s department for the Liturgy (see The Portico 42)

The Pope also chose to give a Cardinal’s red hat to Robert McElroy, the Bishop of San Diego, in what is reported by America Magazine as “the biggest surprise of this consistory for the church in the United States”. Bishop McElroy is regarded as one of the strongest supporters of the Pope’s vision for the Church, and his promotion has perhaps also sent a strong message in response to recent controversies about Holy Communion, as Bishop McElroy has been firmly opposed to the withholding of Holy Communion from individuals, widely regarded as the weaponisation of the Eucharist.

How Green are our Parishes?

“Creation is a wondrous gift that God has placed in our hands, so that we may enter a relationship with him and we may recognise in it the imprint of his loving plan.” 

(Pope Francis Video Message for Laudato Si Week)

In the spirit of Laudato Si Week, we asked some of our Cornish parishes how they are ‘living’ Laudato Si. Here are some extracts from their responses:

In St Ives/Penzance, Fr Philip reports that the Parish and School re-cycle as much as they can through a variety of routes (including jewellery, coins and currency, mobile, camera’s & gadgets, stamps), and use Fairtrade goods wherever possible. On the Care of Creation day before lockdown, everyone at Mass received a 10 point leaflet: “10 tips to help our Common Home NOW”, and Fr Philip is now keen to re-convene the Care for Creation group, which used to meet before Covid, to consider ‘The Journey to 2030’ a booklet produced by the Ecological Conversion Group, a lay group of Catholics. Penzance Council’s “Sustainable Penzance” leaflet is recommended to parishioners.

St Austell has been a Fairtrade parish for several years, and recycles old jewellery, watches, cameras, mobile phones via a company which pays CAFOD from the proceeds. Parishioners also made a point of buying local milk in glass bottles for refreshments after Mass. The Justice and Peace group is being revived imminently, so it is hoped to also revive plans to register for the Live Simply award which were put on hold due to the pandemic.

From Liskeard and Saltash, Fr Gilmour writes that the Chemin Neuf Community at Sclerder Abbey, much inspired by Laudato Si, is considering a project to develop community working on the farm and gardens there. Also at Sclerder, a parishioner was involved in the production of  a publication called “The Slow Path with an associated photographic presentation At Your Own Pace. Books were sold at Mass with donations going to the parish’s Refugee Fund. In Saltash, planting and limited mowing is underway to encourage wildlife.

In Truro, Fr John writes that active consideration is being given to solar panels / a ground source heat pump and battery storage of energy – with cost being one of the main holding factors. Fr John himself drives a hybrid electric car and walks wherever he can. Everything that can be recycled is.

Synod 2021-23: “Our journey continues”

Plymouth Synod report:

The Pope’s pleas for us to listen with the ear of the heart (article next page) resonates in Bishop Mark’s foreword to the Plymouth Diocese synod report. Observing that this initial “parish listening” exercise only reached some 10% of the church-going population, Bishop Mark urges us all to listen more intently: “We need to strain our bodies, our ears, and our hearts to reach out, to listen deeply to … voices of those who are not on the road with us, but who are nevertheless our brothers and sisters and who are perhaps silently pleading to us from the side of the road”

Assuring us that “we continue in our ongoing journey as a Precious place of God’s Grace” in these next months, Bishop Mark asks and challenges participants, non-participants and clergy: what can we take forward? How can we walk more authentically with one another? What can assist in giving you the confidence and the energy to be more intentionally part of this journey?

The report itself has 5 sections. Sections 1 and 2 summarise the process and the experience of synodal listening. Sections 3 and 4 do a good and fair job at trying to pick out the key issues as well as reflect the diversity of views expressed, while section 5 Future Growth identifies 6 key challenges that we need to reflect on and respond to as a next step. Encouragingly, it concludes that “ it can be challenging to ‘journey together’ but there is a strong desire to do this…”

England & Wales Diocesan Reports:

Dioceses around England and Wales have now submitted their responses which will be summarised for discernment by the Council of Bishops later this year. 

As well as church governance and structures, local discussions inevitably centred on issues to do with role of the laity and in particular treatment of women, young people, ethnic minorities, LGBT+, the poor and people in irregular relationships; celebration of the liturgy; role of priests; clerical abuse, etc.

Without any unanimity, a number of common themes on synodality begin to emerge, including 

  • how most people welcomed and embraced the actual experience of a synodal process despite suspicion and scepticism. 
  • an acknowledgement that, with some notable exceptions, the synodal process has largely failed so far to include anyone other than a small proportion of regular church attenders. Those marginalised by the Church continue to be excluded from the synodal process so far!
  • a general recognition that this “beginning” process needs to be followed up in parishes and dioceses, and that tools, resources and structures are needed for this.

All the Diocesan Reports for England and Wales can be found here

Echoes from Ukraine

with thanks to David Roper

A distant echo of the horrible war in Ukraine was heard in Truro last month when the Methodist church invited people to attend an evening meeting, and report upon their response to the arrival of refugees in the city.

The chairs on both sides of the aisle were soon occupied and after a short introductory speech from the Minister, three speakers in turn spoke of their personal experiences. These tended to show that no single organized centre existed where those interested in the refugee problem could turn to. Upon an invitation for comments from those seated, it emerged Cornwall Council had not sent a representative to answer questions relating to payments for hosting, or for the educational needs of those of school age; other topics were the danger from people traffickers, Christian charities for pairing refugees with host families and leisure activities available.

It appeared those attending were counted among charity workers, teachers, host families, and three young female Ukrainian refugees who had only recently arrived in Truro.

The outcome was that the meeting ended with names taken from those willing to help, and with the promise of a second meeting, with the Methodist Church having organized itself into a leading role as the centre for Ukrainian refugees, and problems that might arise. 

(See also Ukraine Family Host meet-up)

A Time of Change

Bishop Mark has been appointed by Pope Francis to be the Archbishop of Cardiff, the Vatican announced last Wednesday 27 April. We are sure that our readers, along with many others in Plymouth Diocese, wish him well and will pray for his success in his new role. A Diocesan Mass of Thanksgiving for Bishop Mark will be celebrated at Plymouth Cathedral on Monday, 30 May, at 12 noon. He will be installed in his new post at Cardiff Cathedral on 20 June.

In Truro as with the rest of the Diocese, it is a time of uncertainty for us, as no successor to Bishop Mark has yet been announced. We understand that when Bishop Mark is installed in Cardiff, the Cathedral Chapter of Canons will meet to elect a priest to be our Diocesan Administrator until a new Bishop of Plymouth is appointed by the Holy Father.

Meanwhile, we are asked to pray that the Holy Spirit will both guide all those involved in the process of appointing our new Bishop, and will give the chosen successor the grace and courage to undertake this ministry.