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Bishop Paul Swarbrick

Ninth Bishop of Lancaster

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Lancaster Cathedral

an oasis of calm in the heart of the City

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Daily Mass Celebrated at 12:15 pm
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The Bishop's Chair
Cathedra (Chair)
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The Mother Church of the Diocese of Lancaster

Reaching out to the City and to the World

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Always Open for Prayer ...
... And Praise!
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St Thomas More Church

Sunday Mass at 9:30 am

A PASTORAL LETTER  

FROM THE BISHOP OF LANCASTER  

FOR OUR SYNODAL JOURNEY 

Appointed to be read at all Public Masses on the weekend of 16th/17th October 2021,  in all churches and chapels of the Diocese of Lancaster 

11th October 2021 

My dear People, 

Some of you may be aware that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called the whole  Church to take part in a ‘synodal journey’; I suspect that many of you may not be aware  of this, and that several of you are not particularly interested, and that the majority will  be asking what it is anyway!  

At heart, a synod is to do with sharing a journey (from the Greek, ‘together’ ‘way’).  From the Gospels and the life of the early Christians we can see that it came to mean  more than just another meeting. It became a characteristic of the way the Church lived  and worked together. Pope Francis does not want us to lose this characteristic. He is  telling us that we all have a place in the life and Mission of Christ, and that each of us  has something to say, something to contribute to that Mission. In particular, the Holy  Father wishes us to have conversations that draw people to Jesus as well as to one  another. Such conversations will actually help us hear the voice of God, and recognize  the Word of God. 

This first phase of preparation is to take place throughout the Diocese, please God, in  all the parishes. We are invited to pray, speaking our mind (with respect and charity of  course!), careful listening, discernment and openness to the promptings of the Holy  Spirit. The Bishops who meet in Rome in 2023 will have received your deliberations on the theme: For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission. 

I can hear some saying that we have been here before, and that our meetings so easily  become talking shops. I disagree. At this time we are in a new place, where we have  never been before. Time is passing. Also, those meetings are listening-shops, when we  respect one another, and when we are open to hear what the other is saying.  

I am asking all our parishes to pray for the success of the Synod of Bishops due to take  place in October 2023. As well as praying for the Synod, I want parishes to meet and  actually help form the Church, making it Fit for Mission for these times. We are already well on along the road so please don’t think we are still only at the beginning. Those  who laboured before us did not do so in vain. There is much to be encouraged by. 

Remember that we do not meet as some sort of Parliament body, disputing over policies.  We meet as fellow pilgrims, working together for the good of all, and what enables us  to do that is our hearing the Holy Spirit, and following Christ the Good Shepherd.  

The questions received for our attention in this Diocesan phase are both wide ranging  and significant for the life of both the Universal Church and for our own local Church  that is the Diocese of Lancaster. They invite us to 1) deepen our sense of communion  in our parishes and diocese, as well as with the wider Catholic Church and Holy Father, 

2) to affirm our baptismal dignity together with the gifts and charisms we share through  our parishes, work and family life, 3) to deepen our adult formation as disciples of Christ  for His Mission, building on what we received and promised in Baptism and  Confirmation.  

Father Jim Burns has agreed to be the contact person for the Synod process. At this  stage we are still organizing ourselves to send material out to parishes in more detail  about how you participate in the process. Many of us still recall the intense and  extensive Fit for Mission consultation. This will not be on that scale. I would prefer if  we aim for something far briefer, especially given the continued restrictions on social  life. Of course there will be opportunity to use online facilities, but these are not easy  for some, and can weaken parish communities as well as strengthen them. Let’s look  after our local parishes as best we can. Rather than splinter groups of particular interest  I want us to unite. 

Whatever is submitted from parishes will be collated into a single report limited to ten  pages (although they never specified the font size!) to be received by the beginning of  February 2022. These Diocesan reports will feed into the Conference of England and  Wales, 22 Dioceses. These will be collated into a report that will be fed into the  European continental body, gathering from the various nations. Obviously they will  collate what they receive and feed a report to Rome in advance of the October Synod  2023. The more focused and clear we are the better.  

More detailed information will come your way very soon. I ask parishes to give this  matter significant priority, although do not let it distort what you are already actively  engaged with. We will use the Diocesan Website, the Catholic Voice, and parish  communications to help provide information. The principal documentation from the  Holy See can be freely accessed directly at: https://www.synod.va/en.html  

An old Medieval proverb stated that ‘What touches all ought to be considered and  approved by all’. Approval by all sounds ambitious, but it is one Faith we adhere to,  and One Church that shelters us. We know all too well how easy it is to become divided  as families and as a Church. The greatest threat to any strong party will come from  within its own ranks rather than from the opposition party. We face many crucial issues,  and any one of them could cause the flock to be scattered if we lose our bond with the Good Shepherd. He gave His life for our salvation; let us not allow indifference to be  our response to so great a gift. 

With all my thanks, prayers and every blessing, 

✠Paul Swarbrick 

Bishop of Lancaster