Families across England and Wales warmly welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the consultation in preparation for the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme ‘Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization’. Although the complexity of the consultation questionnaire and the timescale given for its completion were found to be very challenging, there was a deep appreciation for the desire of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops to consult so widely on this important issue.
The publicity given by national and international media to the opportunity to respond to the consultation online, greatly increased awareness and participation, reaching many Catholics who no longer go to Mass or practise their faith.
The consultation process therefore became an opportunity for evangelisation in and of itself, as well as an occasion for the Church in England and Wales to learn more about the joys, sorrows, and the hopes of parents, couples, their families and friends.
In accordance with the wishes of the Holy See, the summary of the responses sent to the Synod of Bishops is confidential. However, the statistical information shows a high level of engagement in the consultation process. Summary reports were received from all 22 Dioceses in England and Wales, as well as reports from the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Apostolic Prefecture of the Falkland Islands.
Across England and Wales, 16,500 responses to the consultation were received by dioceses via email, post or through online response forms. Analysis of 12,266 online responses indicates that 80% of respondents were laity, 69% were married and 38% were parents. 20% of respondents were in positions of responsibility within the Church as priests, chaplains, catechists, teachers, deacons, seminarians, or pastoral assistants. At least 6% were active in voluntary roles as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, readers, musicians, governors of schools, members of diocesan commissions, parish councils or as members of parish organisations. Nearly 1% of respondents identified themselves as either a lapsed Catholic or a non-Catholic.
Of the respondents, 69% indicated that they are married, 17% single, 6% divorced and a little less than 6% widowed. Just over 1% indicated that they lived in a civil partnership and just under1% indicated that they were cohabiting, with the same proportion divorced and remarried. 0.5% indicated experience of the annulment process.
Distribution across the age ranges was fairly even though weighted towards the older generation: 24% were aged up to 45 years, 30% were aged 65 and older. An additional 1,163 responses were received from 57 other countries which were forwarded to the local dioceses and episcopal conferences of those countries.