Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy speaking at the media briefing ahead of the Synod in Limerick
THE Synod taking place in Limerick this weekend will produce a “programme for government” for the Diocese for years to come, the Bishop has said.
Using the analogy with a smile on his face when discussing the event, Bishop Brendan Leahy will be hoping that the three day think tank taking place in MIC this weekend, at which every parish in Limerick will be represented, plus a wide range of other community groups, will produce a coherent document, unlike the stalled negotiations in Leinster House.
The Synod – or council of the Church – is the first to take place in Limerick in over 70 years – and the first in Ireland in half a century – and has been officially blessed by Pope Francis. 400 delegates will discuss 100 proposals, formed after an extensive 18 month process.
“There is no doubt about it, it is the biggest thing we are doing for the past 80 years. It is certainly a very rare thing, probably the only other event was the visit of John Paul II that was as big in terms of significance for us here in the Diocese,” said Bishop Leahy.
“It was launched in 2014, and then opened up a whole journey of contacting and building bridges with all kinds of people, to discuss the future directions of our Diocese. That was step one. We now actually have the event itself, which will be for three very full days of deliberations, discussions, and that will be a very, very important moment.
“After that comes the actual making up of all that policy as it were; once the decisions are taken and recommendations are given to me, then I have the task of producing a programme for government – somebody used that image and there is an element of that about it – I have the task to make that policy and implement it basically.”
The six themes to be discussed – plus a number of extra ‘universal issues’ including celibacy, married priests and women priests – were established following a “lengthy and detailed engagement” with over 5,000 people. A majority of the delegates hail from the lay community, the Bishop and Synod director Fr Eamon Fitzgibbon noted, with the event to help “map out the future of the Church and how it serves in Limerick”, they said.
“We have four delegates from each and every parish in the Diocese, but also delegates from other communities as well, not just parishes, delegates representing the world of education, healthcare, communities within the city, inter-faith delegates – Polish community, immigrant delegates,” said Fr Fitzgibbon.
“All along, it has been about engaging with as many people as possible throughout the Diocese, to hear from them and to engage with them and see how we can draw up a policy that connects with people.”
The Bishop mentioned the Synod to Pope Francis during a brief audience with the Pope in Rome recently and said that the Papal blessing – delivered by the Papal Nuncio Most Rev Charles John Brown – was a "wonderfully encouraging acknowledgement of the importance of the work that will take place during the Synod".
“There could not have been a better start for us to Synod Week than to receive this Papal Blessing. I took the opportunity when I met Pope Francis two weeks ago to tell him of the Synod and, as in the previous occasions when I referenced Limerick to him, his eyes lit up. It’s clear that he has an affinity for Limerick," he said.
“It’s an honour to have the Papal Nuncio with us but that he has come bearing such a gift as an Apostolic Blessing will really imbue a greater sense of purpose and vigour in all of us as we approach this hugely important gathering."
Looking ahead to the Synodd, he framed it in the context of the Church being at a "really important juncture" in its lifetime.
“There continues to be incredible work done but we have also come through turbulent times. There are challenges ahead but we will embrace them as opportunities. We have to confront the decline in vocations, for example, but this issue also makes us see the Church as a people, with clergy and laity working side by side to ensure it delivers spiritually, pastorally and, indeed, socially in the way it can.”