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November 10, 2022

Continental Stage Background

Some 30 theologians, pastoral workers and bishops gathered from 22 September to 2 October at Frascati near Rome to draft the working document for the continental phase of the Synod. The document is referred to as the Document for the Continental Stage (DCS). It brings together the syntheses submitted by Bishops Conferences, religious orders, Catholic organizations, movements, dicasteries and others.

The Synod Office received 112 submissions from the 114 Bishops Conferences in the world which is unprecedented.

The DCS was released in Rome on 27 October. It will be the subject of reflection and discernment in the continental gatherings. These gatherings will each produce their own document, which will be used by the Synod Office to draft the working document for the October 2023 Synod Assembly.

Some continents are able to have ecclesial assemblies involving bishops, priests and lay people gathering together. In Oceania this was judged to be too expensive and difficult, so a different process has been developed. To ensure that the response to the DCS is ecclesial and includes substantial clergy, religious and lay input, there will be a reflection and discernment process on the DCS in the dioceses of Oceania. The responses will be synthesized into one synthesis from each of the four Bishops Conferences. A Discernment and Writing Group will convene for a week in January to create one document which will be the continental draft for consideration by the Federation of Bishops Conferences of Oceania at its Assembly in February. The final version approved by the Assembly is to be submitted to the Synod Office in Rome by 31 March 2023. The Pope has also added another year to the process, with a second Assembly to take place in 2024.

Aotearoa reflection and discernment on the Document

The Continental Stage for Oceania involves the countries and territories covered by the Bishops’ Conferences of New Zealand, Australia, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and the Episcopal Conference(s) of the Pacific.

Aotearoa New Zealand now needs to carry out a discernment process on this document. The results of our discernment will be integrated with similar documents from other Bishops’ Conferences of Oceania. The resulting draft will be considered by the bishops of the region at the Assembly of the Federation of Bishops Conferences of Oceania, in Suva in February, which will finalise a synthesis from Oceania to go to the Synod Office in March 2023.

The discernment process on the Document for the Continental Stage has to take place before 5 December, so that the New Zealand response can be ready by 22 December. Because of the tight timeframe the process is being limited to diocesan and national groups, and religious congregations. The Document for the Continental Stage is not a document to be amended, corrected or enlarged, but a true guide for an ongoing discernment, fruit of listening to the People of God.

A group of individuals from various diocesan advisory bodies and areas will be invited to participate in an online Spiritual Conversation session to reflect and discern about this DCS. These online sessions will be facilitated by the diocese.

We recall that the purpose of the Synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but “to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands.”

Synod Preparatory Document, 32 



This synthesis document is the culmination of communal spiritual discernment. It aims to express the fruits of the synodal process, indicating how the Holy Spirit’s call to the Church has been understood in the local context.

This synthesis document is the contribution of the Diocese of Palmerston North to the local phase of Synod 2021-2023. This document was published on 10 June 2022 and can be accessed below.

About these carvings

These carvings are from the entrance to Te Rau Aroha, The Diocesan Centre in Palmerston North. This centre is a place of work, gathering, training, formation and celebration and the carvings illustrate the connection with the Mana Whenua (home people) of the region, Rangitane. 

A new age is expressed by the use of the traditional (red, white and black) and more specifically the new colours. This symbolises the ever evolving nature of the church, the faith and our diocese.

The apex of the carvings, pictured here, represents the people embracing Christianity. This is represented by a figure representing the people, Māori and settlers, who have come to embrace Christianity.

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