Message from the Bishops of Canada attending
the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
on the ‘Bishop: Servant of the Gospel for the Hope of the World’

With Hope, Moving into the Deep

As Canadian bishops delegated to attend the 10th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, we wish to convey this message to the Church in Canada. We have experienced, in a most deep and personal way, the real communion that comes from the Gospel alive in the contemporary world. With us in the meeting hall, surrounding the Pope, who followed our deliberations with interest and attention, were fellow bishops from 125 countries and from all the various Eastern Catholic Churches. This wonderful array of apostles working in the Lord’s vineyard in every part of the globe has been a strong reminder that whatever problems we face, no matter how heart-wrenching, our brothers and sisters walk with the Lord and also with us.

What have we accomplished here at the Synod? Together with all the bishop delegates, major religious superiors and delegates from other Christian Churches, we have brought our dreams, our ideas, our views to advise the Holy Father, and thereby bring the Church to a better position for serving the People of God in the reality of their daily lives. The Synod has been an enriching experience of communion for all delegates. We would like to share four experiences that will give a sense of what the Synod has been for us.

Episcopal Collegiality

In the first place, a Synod is an experience of collegiality, or one might say of working together, as bishops belonging to the same college and sharing in a common responsibility for the entire Church and its mission. This collegiality, which of course is already at work in our ministry as bishops in Canada, is also a lived experience in Rome, as our Canadian delegation came together to pray, to work and to socialize. Moreover, collegiality very much takes on a world dimension here, through discussions with bishops from all parts of the globe and with the members of the Roman Curia. It is this collegiality that was at work as the fundamental activity of the Synod, in advising the Holy Father and one another on the major issues of Church life. It is not surprising that the whole topic of collegiality, and how it is expressed, was much discussed at this Synod. Aspects reviewed under this included possible changes to the procedures of the Synod of Bishops; the experiences of the Eastern Patriarchates and their own Synods; the Episcopal Conferences, which offer important opportunities for inculturating the Christian message and experience; and relations with the Roman Curia.

Sharing between Churches

Another experience of collegiality was meeting bishops from the four corners of the world. Through them we heard the wail of suffering humanity from everywhere. The dire poverty that is the lot of so many can leave people hopeless and is often at the origin of current instances of violence. Furthermore, through bishops from the United States, Pakistan, Nigeria, Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, we were in touch with the suffering caused by recent events. Several bishops especially had strong and moving words about this, and in prayer we petitioned God for peace with justice. In such a context, it was not surprising that the noblest titles attributed to a bishop during the Synod were ‘‘defender of the poor’’, ‘‘voice of the voiceless’’ and ‘‘promoter of justice’’. As a result, we discussed in detail how to be better at exchanging and sharing among our Churches. Our responsibility as the Church in the Western world is great in this regard. However, our stance must be not so much that of people who have and are able to give, but rather that of acknowledging our own poverty, and humbly receiving the example and witness of those in adversity. We in the West also have needs, especially the scarce numbers of apostolic workers. In short, there is an urgent need to review how best to coordinate authentic exchanges among our Churches.

Dialogue between Cultures and Religions

At the Synod we also experienced a truly intercultural dialogue. Particularly in the workshops, we were with bishops not only from Europe and America but also from India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Cambodia, Namibia and Sierra Leone, just to name a few. As Westerners, we found ourselves in a minority. It was natural in such a context that much was said about dialogue between cultures and religions as a necessary step toward achieving world peace, and also about the inculturation of the Gospel. It was often repeated that when the Gospel is not part of the culture, it cannot be properly received, heard and welcomed. This attention to culture and to the context of life reminded us that the bishop is, above all, the pastor of a particular people, linked to a local Church, and that his role is to be a witness in his particular milieu of the mercy-filled visitation of God who enters into our history and takes on our specific culture.

Listening to the Church in Canada

The Synod experience was closely related to our sense of being in close communion both with those delegates from other Christian Churches who were present at the Synod and certainly also with all the Catholic Churches in Canada. As to the former, the powerful witness of an ecumenical presence to the cause of Christian unity was most moving. With respect to the latter, the involvement of the bishops and faithful from our sister dioceses in Canada was the very foundation of our Synod participation. From the beginning of the synodal process some two years ago, we have listened to countless people throughout Canada trying to discern how we as bishops can be better witnesses of Christian hope. We worked with theologians, appreciating the importance of their contribution to the life of the Church. Our participation in the Synod has also been made possible by the many who prayed for us as well as those who did their utmost to look after our respective dioceses during our absence. We take the occasion of this message to emphasize that our ministry as bishops is always and only possible in communion with the priests and deacons of our diocese, with those in consecrated life whose competence and charisms enrich the life of our Churches, and in communion with all the faithful who bring the Gospel into every area of our world and also assist in the pastoral ministry.

Moving into the Deep

With gratitude in our hearts, we recommit ourselves to be heralds of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Following the invitation of the Successor of Peter, whose 23rd anniversary we celebrated as Bishop of Rome, we commit ourselves, as the theme of the Synod indicates, to be servants of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the hope of the world.  We are most anxious to move ahead with creativity and courage to encourage new growth in our dioceses. We invite all Canadian Christians to be full partners in this recommitment. It was providential that during the Synod was the October 10 beatification of Émilie Tavernier-Gamelin, founder of the Sisters of Providence, a Canadian religious community. What a wonderful reminder that heroic Christians have built the Church in Canada! Our own renewed dedication is the best tribute we ourselves can give to our predecessors and the best legacy we can leave for those who come after us.

Rome, October 26, 2001

† Gilles Cazabon, O.M.I., Bishop of Saint-Jérôme
† Joseph Khoury, Eparch of the Maronites of Canada
† Raymond Lahey, Bishop of St. George’s
† Pierre Morissette, Bishop of Baie-Comeau
† James Weisgerber, Archbishop of Winnipeg