Invitation: Lancashire's lapsed and practising Catholics invited to share views on future of church
Lancashire's Catholics are being invited to share their views on the future of their church
But the invitation is not just for those still in the pews. It is also aimed at those who may have drifted from the church, feel they have not been helped by the church at times of need or feel it is not fulfilling its mission.
The Bishop of Salford the Right Rev John Arnold, stressed that as "a listening church" it will also be important to hear from those on the margins of church and society and those who feel excluded from either, as well as from people of "other traditions".
The dialogue is part of a worldwide "Universal Synod" conversation about the future work of the Catholic church.
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Participants from the Salford diocese have until March 1 to submit responses. They are being asked to reply as individuals or parishes to questions including: what has been your experience of your parish/community during the pandemic? How can we best listen to each other, in the church and in the wider world? In what ways do our parishes/communities speak to each other and the wider society? How could we do this better?
On the diocesan website Bishop John said: "We face lots of challenges don’t we. We have the pandemic, we have climate change, the refugee crisis, we have modern slavery. So many difficulties, and we have the dreadful poverty that surrounds us. And we need to respond as a church. And that may mean that we do things in a different way. I’m asking everybody to take this prayerful journey together and to invite others, particularly those who may be Catholics but don’t necessarily come to church or feel part of a church community, to say why they don’t feel part of the church, so that we may learn and may be able to provide better for them."
But he stressed the synod was "not an argument, it’s not a debate, it’s not a discussion of what I want for my church. This is looking to see what the holy spirit may be asking of us, what God wants of us as we translate gospel values into the needs of our time. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to change the doctrines of the church, but we’ll know how to apply them in the times in which we live."
In a pastoral letter delivered to parishes last year the Bishop explained that the Universal Synod is looking at communion, participation and mission and emphasised: "It is important that we understand its purpose and meaning ... the very word synod means on a journey together."
Bishop John noted: "A synod is not a debating event where people bring their arguments and opinions in order to win a discussion ... We are all invited by Pope Francis to take part."
He added that he hoped the diocese's response could build on other intitiatives and be: "the first step in a longer and deeper listening journey to help us shape the diocese for the future."
It is intended that a summary of the responses will be made available to the whole diocese.
A spokesperson from the Diocese of Salford said: “We are continuing to receive responses to our Universal Synod, which is really encouraging. It’s wonderful to see so many people wanting to get in touch about the future of their church and we’re very much looking forward to this journey, which will be followed by our own diocesan synod. The survey for this stage of the synod remains open until Tuesday 1 March and we’d love to hear from as many parishes and individuals as possible, particularly people who may no longer feel a connection to the Church."
Across the world the consultation will be ongoing from 2021-23 .In Lancashire the diocese of Liverpool and diocese of Lancaster will also be inviting responses.
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