Plenary Council: Being open to conversion, renewal and reform requires repentance, Dr Chris Cotter
By Amanda Murthy
The Archdiocese of Perth Centre for Faith Enrichment held their fifth successful seminar on 24 June, as part of its mission to encourage continuous discernment and prayer, as the first Plenary Council (PC) Assembly approaches, this October.
The latest seminar held at Newman Siena Centre, led by Catholic Education Western Australia Director of Religious Education Dr Chris Cotter explored one of six Plenary Council themes, “Discovering A Christ-centred Church that is Open to Conversion, Renewal and Reform.”
Dr Cotter began by explaining the need, expressed by the Church through the Plenary Council, ‘to promote a culture of reform through renewed governance structure and procedures, to strengthen faith communities for the mission of the Gospel through faith formation, participation in parish life and the support of young people, and a willingness to embed the Gospel mission in the soil of the people and conditions of Australia.’
“There are both internal and external calls for institutional reform in the Catholic Church. However effective reform requires a renewal of culture, which flows from ongoing conversion to the person and mission of Jesus Christ,” Dr Cotter said, quoting a paragraph of the Plenary Council Working Document.
“Concrete action is required to address improvements in governance and leadership, recognition and formation for a wider range of ministries to strengthen local missionary presence, and to implement national priorities for the inclusion of First Nations people, the promotion of an integral ecology of life and the fuller participation of women in the mission of the Church.”
A Plenary Council seminar led by Catholic Education Western Australia Director of Religious Education Dr Chris Cotter on 24 June, allowed a space for the community to continue the process of prayer, discernment, and dialogue. Photo: Amanda Murthy.
Conversion, Dr Cotter went on to explain, must be an ongoing process, which strives to achieve the “person and mission of Jesus Christ.”
“Without ongoing conversion (to the person and mission of Jesus Christ), then there will be no renewal of culture and no reform of the institution towards these national priorities,” Dr Cotter expressed.
“As Pope Francis noted in his address to the National Conference of the Italian Church in November 2015: The reform of the church then, and the church now is semper reformanda [always undergoing reform]…does not end in the umpteenth plan to change structures…It means instead grafting yourself to and rooting yourself in Christ, leaving yourself to be guided by the Spirit — so that all will be possible with genius and creativity.
“This change is Christological, that is, centred on Christ and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Thus, authentic change or reform based on conversion to Christ will bear the marks of the Christ-event: the mystery of living, dying and rising again,” he added.
Dr Cotter then examined the meaning of conversion in a biblical context. The Greek word metánoia translates to the English as ‘after-thought,’ or ‘repent’. Accordingly, the term “conversion” brings together the affective, cognitive, and active dimensions to the experience of change in a person’s life or in the life of a social group.
“Another related term used in the New Testament that contributes to an understanding of conversion is metemorphōthē meaning “transfigured” or “transformed.” Conversion is also an experience of transcendence. This conversion takes a person or a group beyond the present limits in their knowing, valuing and acting.”
Dr Cotter concluded the topic by encouraging those present to continue developing concrete proposals to create a more missionary, Christ-centred Church in Australia at this time.
“….As the Plenary Council considers concrete proposals for reform and renewal in governance and leadership, recognition and formation for a wider range of ministries to strengthen local missionary presence, implementation of national priorities for the inclusion of First Nations people, the fuller participation of women in the mission of the Church, the promotion of an integral ecology of life – as the Gospel of Mark prompts, ‘Let us repent and believe the good news, that the Kingdom of God has drawn near’,” Dr Cotter concluded.