By Simone Olsen
Two lay people and two Bishops from New Zealand will travel to Rome to participate in the Catholic Church’s discussion led by Pope Francis on Marriage and the Family, next month.

Top (left to right) Sharron Cole, Dr John Kleinsman Bottom (left to right) Cardinal John Dew, Bishop Charles Drennan
Top (left to right) Sharron Cole, Dr John Kleinsman
Bottom (left to right) Cardinal John Dew, Bishop Charles Drennan

Mrs Sharron Cole, Dr John Kleinsman, Cardinal John Dew and Bishop Charles Drennan will be attending.

The Synod gathering follows on from the gathering last year on the same topic which was widely discussed throughout the world. Synods are gatherings held annually of Cardinals and Bishops and given the nature of the topics discussed at the gathering in 2014 and the one coming significant input from lay people has been included.

This is a significant number, named in a list of participants overnight from Rome, from a small country like New Zealand, especially a country with a small Catholic population. It reflects Pope Francis’ efforts in reaching out to the margins, including geographical ones, ensuring that the Church throughout the world has a voice in this global discussion. Add to that, Cardinal Soane Mafi, Bishop of Tonga, and Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Bishop Eugene Hurley, and Ms Maria Harres from Australia who will also be attending and there will be significant input from the Pacific.

“In travelling to Rome I will be mindful of people back home in New Zealand, and especially the significant percentage of Catholics who feel they no longer belong within the Church. For many, this is because their committed relationship or their family does not fit within the parameters or the language the church usually uses to describe family. They do not see themselves in the language we use to describe family.” said Bishop Charles Drennan of Palmerston North.

“I’m looking forward to taking part in these discussions, I’m particularly grateful that New Zealand will have two lay people representing us and in particular to have in them the expertise and backgrounds from which Sharron Cole and John Kleinsman come from.” Said Cardinal John Dew

“The task I’ve been asked to do involves helping with the drafting of the documents, drawing together feedback from the Synod interventions and small group discussions. I feel very privileged to be able to be a part of what is such an important conversation in our Church at this time. I’m looking forward to hearing the different perspectives and learning about the issues that affect families in cultures very different from New Zealand. It is great that Pope Francis is enabling a forum where people can honestly and respectfully share their views and opinions. This sort of gathering is very much in keeping with the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and its emphasis on the Church being concerned not just with itself but with humankind as it really is today.” Said John Kleinsman

“I’ve been invited to give a presentation on a related topic and participate in the Synod discussion. I’m mindful that it is a privilege to contribute in this way and would like offer insights from my own personal experience, as a wife and mother, as well as things I’ve observed about New Zealand families through my professional work and from my own parish community.” Said Sharron Cole.

Simone Olsen is the communications adviser of the NZ Catholic Bishops