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Anna Rowlands Listening Practices in Global Catholicism Conference

Listening Practices in Global Catholicism Conference: March 2024, Venue: The Pontifical University of St Thomas, Rome Deepening our understanding of listening in the Church.

The Listening Practices in Global Catholicism conference brought together over 40 practitioners and academics from around the world for three days of rich discussions about ecclesial listening practices. The project, of which the Centre for Catholic Studies at the University of Durham is a partner, is designed to help deepen our understanding of listening at all levels of the Church, learning from a variety of Church contexts and in dialogue with other academic disciplines. The fruits of the conference will be shared widely with participants in the Synod and through open access publications in the coming months.

Academics and practitioners not only shared their research, which draws from listening experiences from each continent, but also spent time in Rome developing their ideas together with robust and dynamic discussions throughout the event.

"We were very excited to gather together a body of fascinating scholars and practitioners from across the globe who have been thinking intensively about the kinds of listening that are best suited to particular Church contexts and practices. The conference was an opportunity for rich conversation amongst a group from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. We didn’t know where it would take us, or what the fruits of that would be, but we wanted to see what happened when you brought these people into a room. In the first instance, one of the fruits of this has been the encounter and learning across different disciplines. Secondly, we recognised that there are emerging themes that have come up repeatedly. Power and trust are two themes that emerged, and for me are the two difficult things to speak about really well, with faithful honesty, when we’re speaking about listening in the Church” said Professor Anna Rowlands, Lead Project Coordinator.

Throughout the conference reflections on questions about listening that have been raised during the synodal processes of the last three years has been deepened, and contributed to our learning about how listening can serve healthy and vibrant Church life and mission.

Susan Pascoe, one of the participants in the conference and Adjunct Professor at The University of Western Australia said that “What's resonated with me over the last couple of days is the richness of the voices in the room. So we had a combination of sociologists, theologians, people who've been involved in the synod on synodality from the start; we were very fortunate to have a couple of people who are in the Curia, in Vatican, and who committed the time to be there to listen and to participate.”

The “Listening Practices” project, which hosted the conference, exists to help inform and deepen the practice of ongoing and future listening processes at every level of the Catholic Church. It is a joint endeavour of the Centre for Catholic Studies (CCS) at the University of Durham, UK, The Pontifical University of St Thomas (Angelicum), and Royal Holloway College University of London, in partnership with the Synod on Synodality Listening Project Steering Committee.

The project will share the fruits of the conference and its conclusions widely and across different media, including through its podcast Audimus, which is already available on podcast platforms and the project website