June 1, 1999

Mr. Jean-Claude Le Vasseur
President of the National Council
Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace
5633 Sherbrooke Street East
Montreal, PQ
H1N 1A3

Dear Mr. Le Vasseur:

It is with great pleasure that I write to thank the National Council and, through you, all the staff and members of Development and Peace, for the wonderfully successful campaign that you undertook in the collection of signatures for the petition to cancel the unpayable debts of the poorest and most highly-indebted countries.

When the past Plenary of the Bishops of Canada considered the 1999 program of activities of the Social Affairs Commission, they asked us "to focus on the international campaign for the forgiveness or reduction of the debt of poor countries, and the means necessary to ensure that its benefits flow through to the poor, particularly to support and participate in the Canadian debt petition." I was pleased to be able to write to my episcopal colleagues as early as June 15, 1998, requesting that they promote the petition campaign of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative in their dioceses. Specifically at that time I encouraged meetings with the Diocesan Councils of CCODP and full collaboration in all efforts to collect signatures.

The members of the Social Affairs Commission realize that the debt petition in Canada has been a tremendously successful ecumenical initiative, resulting in over 625,000 signatures collected. We are particularly gratified that almost 500,000 signatures were collected by Catholic churches and schools. This was, in large part, due to the tireless work of the extensive network of CCODP committees and animators across Canada. Without this infrastructure, and the commitment of so many participants, the debt issue could not have gained such an important profile among the Canadian people, let alone with the federal government.

In order to remain faithful to the call for debt cancellation that so many have supported, we will continue to encourage the leaders of our government to make this issue a priority. We are especially pleased that Bishop Pierre Morissette will represent both the CCCB and CCODP at meetings with the German Chancellor next month. What we have begun through the debt petition must be carried forward to ensure that real change, beneficial to the poor, is achieved!

Through this experience of the debt petition, the network of animators and CCODP volunteer committees across the land has once again proved to be a great gift to the Church in Canada. This organization remains a sign of hope and encouragement to all those who struggle to make international solidarity come alive in our hearts and among our wider communities. Thanks to you, and congratulations to all, for this inestimably important Christian witness.

Sincerely yours,

XMost Reverend François Thibodeau, CJM
Episcopal Commission for Social Affairs

cc M. Fabien Leboeuf, Executive Director, CCODP