Annual Conference

8th National ACTA Conference
Synodality: A Path for Renewing both the Church and Society.



ACTA National Conference 

Synodality: A Path for Renewing both the Church and Society.


The papacy of Pope Francis has been characterised by a renewed interest in and commitment to the principles of a synodal Church. It was Pope St. Paul VI who developed the concept of a Church that was in dialogue with itself.  The establishment of the Synod of Bishops has become an integral part of the governance of the Catholic Church for the last half century.


Under Pope Francis, the Synod [ “journeying together”] has become a means to define issues of concern to the Church at large. Synods on the Family, on Young People and the state of the Church in Amazonia have all reflected a need to consult and discuss in identifying the way that the Church moves forward on key matters. Increasing use of the principles of subsidiarity- in which National Conferences define areas for development in response to local [ i.e., national] need- move responsibility away from the centre.


The next Synod is due in October 2023 and will be on the issue of synodality itself. The decision by the Pope to delay the process by a year was based on the need for national churches to prepare themselves for a synodal process. In England and Wales, the Archdiocese of Liverpool has just completed a Synod – a process that has taken some eighteen months and was obviously affected by the pandemic.

ACTA’s National Conference this year will be delivered via Zoom. Its title “Synodality: A Path for Renewing both the Church and Society”, is a quote from a letter of Cardinal Mario Grech to the clergy and laity in Malta. He has responsibility for managing the Synod in 2023. It speaks of a need for renewal in both secular and ecclesial matters, a renewal that has dialogue and consultation at its heart.

The Conference brings together a range of speakers with a clear and deep understanding of the issues raised by synodality and a capacity to shape the thinking of the Church in England and Wales in the years ahead.


Sr Dr Gemma Simmonds is a theologian and writer. As a member of the Company of Jesus her religious formation is within the Jesuit tradition. For a number of years, she worked in South America when Cardinal Bergoglio led the South American Conference of Bishops. Her insights into Ignatian spirituality and perceptions of the issues that have shaped Pope Francis’ vision for the Church will be a key foundation.


From 1980 to 1991 Dr Peter Coughlan was Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity. During this period, he was also a consultor of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and a member of the Joint Working Group between the Roman Catholic Church and the World Council of Churches (headquartered in Geneva). In recent years Peter has taught ecclesiology, ecumenism and ethics at Heythrop College, University of London. His presentation will focus on the development of the Synod under successive Popes.


Dr Pat Jones was the Assistant General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. She played a key role in the development of the National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool in 1980 and acted as an adviser to other diocesan Pastoral Congresses including the Archdiocese of Cardiff under Archbishop Ward. Her reflection will be on lessons learnt from previous consultative processes. Her presentation will involve some reports of work currently being undertaken in some dioceses in England and Wales in preparation for a synodal process.


Fr Philip Inch is, with Fr Matthew Nunes, the Joint Moderator of the Liverpool Synod 2020. A consultation started by Archbishop McMahon OP before the pandemic has continued via online discussions and involved some 500 Catholics across the Archdiocese. They have recently endorsed a series of Proposals which will now form the basis of a Pastoral Plan. Fr Inch will speak of the planning and the process that have led to this point in Liverpool.


8th National Conference

Synodality: A Path for Renewing both the Church and Society.


10.00 - 16.30   Saturday 16th  October  2021

The synodal process 2021-2023

Sr. Gemma Simmonds CJ:  Director of Religious Life Institute: Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology, Cambridge

Dr. Peter Coughlan:  Former Under-Secretary of the Vatican ‘s Council for the Laity

Dr. Pat Jones: Former Assistant General Secretary -Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales

Fr Phillip Inch: Joint - Synod Moderator, Archdiocese of Liverpool – Synod 2020

Zoom Conference £5.     Free for everyone under 25 and those on benefits.   

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Event Date 16-10-2021 10:00 am
Event End Date 16-10-2021 4:30 pm
Capacity 200
Registered 148
Available places 52
Individual Price £5.00
Location Online Zoom Meeting
Attachment Poster - Draft - Final.docx.pdf

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