Grassroots groups representation in light of Pope Francis

Good to see that the Plenary Council has now published a complete list of participants in addition to the “members” appointed earlier.

The list is online here:

Looking at the list of chairpersons, we find three lay people (women) alongside three clergy. Clearly, an effort has been made to provide a balance of lay/clerical, male/female representation here.

Twenty periti or expert advisers have also been appointed, including six women.

The canonical committee comprises three men and two women while there is one woman among the four members of the drafting committee.

However, what is particularly striking from my point of view is the lack of representation of grassroots lay groups, communities, movements and the like.

The Society of St Vincent de Paul has one representative listed among the “Representatives of Lay Minstries.” The National Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) also has three representatives.

Apart from this, not one of the dozens if not hundreds of grassroots Catholic lay groups appears to be directly represented.

Contrast this with Vatican II, where 28 grassroots Catholic groups, movements and the like had representatives among the 50-odd lay auditors at the Council:

Representation of grassroots lay groups and movements in light of the Synod on Synodality

Also relevant here is the recently published Preparatory Document for the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops:

Here let us note what this document says in seeking to answer the question:

How does this “journeying together,” which takes place today on different levels (from the local level to the universal one), allow the Church to proclaim the Gospel in accordance with the mission entrusted to Her; and what steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow as a synodal Church?

In §28, it notes that “journeying together” “extends to the ways in which each particular Church integrates within itself the contribution of the various forms of monastic, religious, and consecrated life, of lay associations and movements, of ecclesial and ecclesiastical institutions of various kinds (schools, hospitals, universities, foundations, charitable and assistance organizations, etc.”

It further asks:

How do we promote collaboration… with and among lay associations and movements, etc.?

Well, for a start, it’s difficult to see how any of this can be achieved in the generalised absence of those lay associations and movements at the Australian Plenary Council.

Synodal teams

On the other hand, the “Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches” prepared for the Synod on Synodality, which sets out the way to set up a “diocesan synodal team” (4.4.2), indicates a way forward:

The Diocesan Contact Person(s) will likely need to work with the collaboration of a core team, which can either be assembled through an open process of people expressing their interest, or by appointment of the diocesan Bishop. Members of the diocesan synodal team are likely to comprise representatives from parishes, movements, diocesan ministries, and religious communities. They can be convened as an advisory and working body for the Diocesan Contact Person(s). 

The significant word here is “representatives” including of “movements.” Surely, this is also the path that the Australian Plenary Council should be taking?

Stefan Gigacz


Plenary Council Participants (Australian Plenary Council)

Preparatory Document for the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (Synod of Bishops)

Official Handbook for Listening and Discernment in Local Churches (Synod of Bishops)

Stefan Gigacz, Representation of lay groups at Vatican II (Cardijn Research)




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