The four-year journey of discernment for the Fifth Plenary Council took a step forward this week, with Council Members invited to reflect on proposals emerging from the Council’s first assembly, held last October.

Towards the Second Assembly: A Working Document for Members offers a focus for Members’ continuing prayer and reflection, especially during the coming month. It includes proposals drafted as part of the process of preparing resolutions for the Council’s second assembly in July.

The Members will spend the month of March in personal and shared reflection on the document, prepared in four sections by expert writing groups.

Members will then provide their reflections to the Council’s drafting committee, which will work with other Council committees and advisors to revise, refine and consolidate the proposals, in anticipation of their publication several weeks before the second assembly.

Plenary Council vice president Bishop Shane Mackinlay, addressing Members last night, said the document ‘is something which is a work in progress for Members’.

‘It’s not just the work of committees or experts or writing groups,’ he said.

It is the next step in the process we are undertaking together of preparing resolutions for the second assembly of the Plenary Council. The contribution of Members over the coming month is critical to this,’ Bishop Mackinlay said.

Towards the Second Assembly draws primarily on the “fruits” of the first assembly’s discernment, discussion and contributions, published in December 2021.

The December document articulated the first assembly’s raw proposals, which were later gathered into four themes:

  • A Deeper Communion Enriched by Diversity;
  • Ecclesial Leadership and Governance – Growing as Disciples and Servants of the Gospel;
  • To Witness to Faith, Hope and Love as Missionary Disciples in the World;
  • To Proclaim God’s New Creation as People of Prayer, Healing and Hope.

Towards the Second Assembly shows further movement of the Spirit; it emerges from discussion, reflection, shared prayer and collaborative writing,’ Bishop Mackinlay explained.

‘It moves forward ideas from the earlier documents, gently reshaping or clarifying them.’

Each section is based on one of the four themes, and begins with scriptural and theological background for its focus and then offers possibilities for consideration.

Members have also received a resource to guide them through a process of individual prayer and reflection and, if possible, a spiritual conversation as part of a small group. The final step in the reflective process invites Members to make a submission to the drafting committee, based on the fruits of their prayer and reflection.

That input will be an essential component for the continued reshaping of the work remaining before the final propositions are ready for discernment and decision at the second assembly.

‘The Steering Committee entrusts this ongoing process to the Holy Spirit and looks forward to the fruits of the Members’ discernment during March,’ Bishop Mackinlay said.

Bishop Mackinlay asked the Catholic community to continue to lift up the Plenary Council and its Members in prayer, ‘which has been a driving force behind our four-year journey’.

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