At the request of dioceses, the period for local submissions for the global Synod of Bishops process has been extended by two weeks, with responses now being received until March 13.

Hundreds of submissions from across the country have been made through the online Synod of Bishops portal, along with responses that have also been sent directly to dioceses.

Trudy Dantis, director of the National Centre for Pastoral Research and national coordinator for the Synod of Bishops process, said the new deadline will allow for richer and more diverse submissions.

“When speaking with our diocesan contacts, it became clear that the tight timeline would not allow enough time for some people to adequately pray with, discern and respond to the Synod questions,” she said.

“The ongoing effects of COVID-19, the summer holidays in this part of the world and the busyness of the start of the school year were all factors we heard were affecting people’s ability to engage as they hoped.”

At a meeting this week, diocesan Synod of Bishops coordinators suggested the extra two weeks could allow parishes and dioceses to reach out to people who are not regular Mass attenders and engage with Catholic schools and other Church communities.

Dr Dantis said while any timeline obviously means some people might miss out on participating, the two-week extension until March 13 will be the final change.

Despite the extended period for local submissions, other milestones for the local and national process will still be met.

“The collation of responses within each diocese has already begun, which will allow the National Centre for Pastoral Research to keep up with the arrival of submissions right up until March 13,” Dr Dantis said.

“We will still be able to provide reports for all dioceses, eparchies and ordinariates based on the current timeline, after which time dioceses will each hold a gathering to celebrate and conclude the local consultation stage.”

Based on diocesan reports, the National Centre for Pastoral Research will prepare a national synthesis that will be finalised during three sessions with the bishops in May and June.

The Church in Australia will provide its consolidated report to the Holy See in August.

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