Synod of Oceania document imminent - 'Ecclesia in Oceania'

Synod of Oceania document imminent - 'Ecclesia in Oceania'

Peter Westmore

The release in late November 2001 of the Holy See's response to the 1998 Synod of Oceania, entitled Ecclesia in Oceania (in English, The Church in Oceania), will be read with great interest worldwide. It follows similar documents, Ecclesia in America, the Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation following the Synod of the Americas, released in January 1999, and Ecclesia in Asia, the Pope's reflection on the Synod of Asian Bishops, released in November 1999.

In those Exhortations, John Paul II addressed the challenges facing the Church in particular parts of the world, including the role of bishops, clergy and lay people in the Church, the call to evangelisation and conversion, and the centrality of the Church's sacramental life, including frequent reception of the sacraments of Penance and Holy Communion. The Pope also addressed particular difficulties facing the Church, such as inculturation in Asia, and poverty and social injustices in Latin America.

Following the Synod of Oceania in late 1998, a meeting of Prefects and Secretaries of six Vatican dicasteries with representatives of the Australian bishops produced the Statement of Conclusions, a joint statement of the challenges facing the Church in Australia, but which has equal relevance to New Zealand and other parts of Oceania.

Among issues raised were the corrosive secular culture, "a crisis of faith" affecting both Catholic schools and universities, "a decline in the sense of sin, stemming from the deeper reality of a crisis of faith, and having grave repercussions for the sacrament of Penance", abuses in parish liturgies, and concerns over "the doctrinal soundness of the theological formation given either in departments of theology in Catholic universities or in other theological centres".

Three years after the Statement of Conclusions, Ecclesia in Oceania will provide an appraisal of what has been done to address these problems, and what remains to be done.

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