At the Spring General Meeting 2020 the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference decided to embark on a synodal pathway for the Catholic Church in Ireland leading to the holding of a National Synodal Assembly within the next five years.


Since the 2018 Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in Rome on the theme of young people, the faith and vocational discernment, bishops had been giving active consideration to calling a National Synodal Assembly for the Church in Ireland. Conversations at local, regional and national level have informed the work of a subgroup of the Episcopal Conference which was established to explore the idea further. During the 2020 Winter General Meeting of the Bishops’ Conference they decided to proceed along a synodal pathway, and, since then, have been assisted and greatly encouraged by Cardinal Grech and Sr. Natalie Becquart, of the General Secretariat for the Synod of Bishops, who addressed the Irish bishops on 3 February 2020.

The Irish Church is mindful of the challenges and opportunities that provide a context for a synodal pathway leading to a National Synodal Assembly or Assemblies at this pivotal time for the Church and is conscious that the following concerns and issues need to be integrated into the journey that the Irish Catholic Church steps out on:

  • Solidarity, Outreach to the Peripheries and the Promise of a New Pentecost.
  • Listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church in an Ireland faced with rapid transformation.
  • Secularisation of Society.
  • Shocking Revelations.
  • The need to promote peace-making and a culture of welcome.
  • Listening to the Cry for Transparency.
  • Discovering the Family as Domestic Church”.
  • Connecting with Young People.
  • Honouring the Contribution of Women.
  • The Initial Phase – Prayer, Listening, Consultation, Discernment.

Initial Two-Year Phase of Embarking on the Synodal Pathway

The initial two-year phase of embarking on the synodal pathway and leading, in time, to a National Synodal Assembly or Assemblies, helpfully coincides with preparation for the 2023 Ordinary General Assembly of Bishops in Rome entitled, For A Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission.

The first two years will be a period of prayer, listening and discernment, involving a nationwide consultative conversation on the Universal theme.  This will allow individuals and parishes, religious orders, and associations as well as groups, movements and organisations both within the Church and in Irish society at large, to share their insights into the Church in Ireland – past, present and future.

The Planning Phase – Preparation for a National Synodal Assembly

The planning and preparation phase for a National Synodal Assembly or Assemblies will bring together and seek to implement the fruits and recommendations from the Initial Phase.  It will, in particular, take account of the conclusions of the General Assembly in Rome in 2023, together with any Apostolic Exhortation by the Holy Father emerging from the General Assembly.  The aim of this phase will be to design the particular form of our National Synod and prepare directly at local, regional and national level for the holding of the Synod.

Steering Committee Members

Nicola Brady (Chair) is General Secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Vivek da Silva is an Assistant Professor in Religious Education in DCU.

Paul Dempsey is Bishop of Achonry.

Josephine Enenmo is a Religious Sister of the Missionary Congregation of Our Lady of Apostles.

Stephen Farragher is a priest of the Archdiocese of Tuam.

Martin Hayes is Bishop of Kilmore.

Niamh Hourigan is a Sociologist and Vice-President of Academic Affairs at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick.

Declan Hurley is Vicar General of the Diocese of Meath.

Julie Kavanagh is a member of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin Faith Development Services team.

Brendan Leahy (Vice-Chair) is Bishop of Limerick.

Julieann Moran works with Missio Ireland to raise mission awareness with children in Catholic primary schools.

Dermot McCarthy is a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Dublin.

Paula McKeown is the Director of the Living Church office in the Diocese of Down and Connor.

Andrew O’Callaghan (Vice-Chair) is a partner in Price Waterhouse Coopers and Chair of Monkstown Parish Pastoral Council, Dublin.

Gerry O’Hanlon is a Jesuit priest and theologian.

Nuala O’Loan is a member of the House of Lords and a qualified solicitor who has served on multiple public bodies, national and international, with particular focus on policing and police accountability.

M. Louise O’Rourke is a Religious Sister with the Disciples of the Divine Master.

Jessie Rogers is a Scripture scholar and Dean of Theology at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.

Michael Router is Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh.

Peter Sands is an educationalist, specialising in Educational Leadership, and has held leadership roles in Catholic youth initiatives across the island of Ireland.

Synodal Task Group Members

Patricia Carroll is the Director of Mission and Ministry in the Archdiocese of Dublin

Sheena Darcy is Diocesan Secretary for the Diocese of Elphin

Eamonn Fitzgibbon (Convenor) is a priest of the Diocese of Limerick and Director of the Irish Institute for Pastoral Studies

Janet Forbes works in pastoral ministry and is a recent graduate of Boston Colleges School of Theology and Ministry