When the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops was created 60 years ago, the bishops set out to work together and combine their forces to help each other meet their pastoral responsibilities, and to give themselves the tools that would allow them to collectively address the major issues of Canadian society and the Church.
Through the CCCB, the bishops set out their collective commitment by putting forward new ideas, values and projects geared to transform the Church and challenge Canadian society. The Canadian bishops have issued powerful messages, promoted public awareness on important social issues, and sometimes even denounced actions and policies of current authorities.
Over the years, the bishops have addressed various issues such as the death penalty, the right to life, workers’ rights, marriage, Aboriginal Peoples, justice and peace, globalization, free trade, etc. They speak out always in the name of Jesus Christ. Sometimes the message is well received, other times it goes against the grain of popular thought.
Some of the issues the CCCB spoke out on include:
· Iraq conflict: the Canadian bishops have constantly claimed that armed conflict is not the solution. They have commended the Government of Canada for its courage in its refusal to become involved in a war that does not have the support of the United Nations. They also urged the faithful to pray and fast for the cessation of war or that war would not de declared.
· Holy Land: in January 2003, CCCB President Bishop Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V., visited Jerusalem for the second time for an update on the situation in that region. He also invited Catholics across Canada to be in solidarity with their brothers and sisters affected by current hostilities between Israel and Palestine.
· Redefinition of marriage: in the Fall of 2002, the Department of Justice invited Canadians to a public debate on marriage. More than once the CCCB intervened in this debate to put forward its position on this fundamental social institution. The CCCB reaffirmed that marriage is the lasting union between a man and a woman to the exclusion of others, and that the fundamental purposes or characteristics of marriage are the good of the couple, as well as the procreation of children.
· That None be Excluded: This statement was prepared for the Summit of the Americas held in April 2001, that brought together government leaders in the Americas to discuss economic integration and free trade. The bishops reminded these leaders of the need to include in their plan of action the protection and strengthening of democracy, the promotion of sustainable development, the protection of the environment, as well as the eradication of poverty and discrimination.
· Eradication of poverty: The CCCB has urged governmental authorities several times to seriously address the eradication of poverty, in particular child poverty. The bishops had strongly denounced that situation in 1996 and again voiced their deep concern two years later.