Fr Eamonn Conway, who has been in Rome all month as an expert adviser to the Synod of Bishops, told The Irish Catholic that the Church in Ireland is “uniquely well placed in Europe despite the challenges it has faced”.
According to Fr Conway, who is Head of Theology at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, a massive strength to build on in Ireland is “a high level of contact at parish and community level in the past”.
Fr Conway, who was appointed to advise the international gathering of bishops including Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and Bishop Kieran O’Reilly of Killaloe, said the Synod offered insights for the Church in Ireland to maintain and grow this parish contact.
He highlighted a “reclaiming of the sacraments” and an “evangelising of evangelisers” as two key points for the Irish context arising from the Synod.
Regarding the sacraments, he said that parishes and communities had to take greater ownership. “We can’t leave it all to the school,” he said.
Each of the continents was represented at the Synod of Bishops and Fr Conway said it was clear that while each has their own strengths and weaknesses, “we all share the same sense of urgency”.
“However,” he said, “this urgency should be characterised by joy rather than panic”.
In his role as expert adviser to the Synod, Fr Conway was required to provide assistance and input while analysing and evaluating the interventions by the bishops. Despite some “long and intense days,” Fr Conway said it was an “enriching experience”.
Bishop O’Reilly, who wrote a regular blog from the Synod hall, described it as a “unique gathering from the vast panorama of a world Church”.
“We got a strong sense of the universality of the Church as we listened to contributors from every part of the world. Despite our diversity of culture, as people of faith we have many of the same concerns about being Church in the modern world,” he said.
The bishops presented a concluding message which they hope will inspire all those involved in promoting evangelisation across the world. “There is no room for pessimism in the minds and hearts of those who know that their Lord has conquered death and that his Spirit works with might in history,” the message says.
The gathering approved 58 recommendations to give to Pope Benedict XVI. Although synod rules dictate the proposals are secret, Pope Benedict authorised their publication at the weekend.
The recommendations will form part of a post-synodal document that the Pope will now write and present to the universal Church.
Many of the propositions described current challenges and opportunities that the Church faces in sharing the Gospel, strengthening the Faith and reaching out to lapsed Catholics