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‘The Church needs to listen and converse more’

By editor - 15 October, 2015

Limerick Synod-LogoThe Church must be open to dialogue and listening rather than just preach to its faithful, the director of the first diocesan synod in Ireland for half a century has stated.

Speaking at a gathering of representatives from a range of city and county based stakeholders at the Savoy Hotel, Limerick as part of the build up to next year’s Synod, Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon said that the Catholic Church needs to be in constant conversation with the wider world.

The event, titled ‘Limerick: What is our Mission?’ was attended by representatives of private business, local government, arts, sports and political circles and explored what Limerick’s identity for the future should be and the role the Catholic Church has to play in developing this.

Among the key outcomes from the four hour seminar suggested by delegates for the Church were for it to:

  • Continue dialogue initiated through the Synod ‘Listening Process’
  • Improve education equality
  • Engage more with young people
  • Promote protection of the environment
  • Play a role in tackling marginalisation
  • Agitate for positive change
  • Address hierarchical perceptions
  • Be innovative

Reflecting on the event, Fr Fitzgibbon said, “We want and have to be outward looking and even less ‘churchy’ or inward looking than we have been before. We need to be in dialogue with the world. We don’t want this Synod to be a talking shop but, instead, are focused on agreeing firm proposals for action.

“We have to, as a Church, be the voice of the people and be willing to listen to the maverick voice. We also need to be hear people on the factory floor, the street, the wider community. We need to come outside and listen and that process has most definitely begun with the Synod preparation but it needs to continue.”

Fr Fitzgibbon said that the diocese has connected with almost 5,000 people as part of the listening process, including young people.

“One of the biggest issues that emerged in our engagement with young people was mental health. Young people have major concerns in relation to their well-being and we have a role to play in tackling this and it’s a role that young people want us to play. That emerged very clearly.”

“Another big issue to emerge was the need for the Church to nurture more, as well as focus on advocacy. We need to advocate for fairness and greater equality.

“Ultimately we need to continue listening. We have really started that process with the Synod but we need to continue. It was remarkable today to hear of one delegate who is in business for 40 years say that this is the first time the Church had asked him for his opinion. We need to change that.”

Said Bishop Leahy, “This has been a really useful process and we will take much away from it. We have heard a lot today about the need for the Church to engage with young people, in particular, and we have definitely done that through the Synod Listening Process but we need to and will continue that.”

“However, I believe the listening has to be intergenerational. We need all age-groups at the table so we can achieve a Church of true consensus. Everyone has to be listened to.”

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