Address of His Excellency Most Reverend Luigi Ventura
Apostolic Nuncio to Canada
CCCB Plenary Assembly
20 September 2001

I am most happy that the beginning of my mission as Apostolic Nuncio to Canada coincides with the Plenary Assembly of the bishops of this country. I consider it a precious grace to be able to meet and get to know each of you whom the Lord has placed at the head of the various dioceses of this immense land. I was already able to meet a number of you who were at the episcopal ordination of Archbishop Émilius Goulet, PSS, this past Sunday in Saint Boniface.

1-     First of all, I wish to share with you the sentiments of the Holy Father with respect to yourselves and the place of the Church in Canada. The Pope, who received me last month and asked me to convey to you his blessing, follows your pastoral commitment with special attention and he encourages your determined zeal in building up the Kingdom. Among other things he was very much touched by your generosity and the availability you have shown in taking on the responsibility for organizing World Youth Day (WYD) 2002, a strong sign and an eminently propitious occasion for renewing the Gospel message in what would appear as the distracted world of youth.

2-    Allow me also to express my most sincere gratitude for the attention which was given to me upon my arrival at the airports in Toronto and in Ottawa. In Toronto I was cordially greeted by Auxiliary Bishop His Excellency John Boissonneau; and in the federal capital, by His Grace Archbishop Marcel Gervais, Archbishop Emeritus Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, the General Secretary of your Conference, Monsignor Peter Schonenbach, and a group of priests who were waiting to welcome me. By the attention shown me in the name of the bishops and priests of Canada, I experienced your attachment to the Holy Father and your recognition of his fundamental mission of unity and charity in the Church. The mission of papal representative has no other goal but to be an instrument of communion with the universal Church, guaranteed by the ministry of the Successor of the Apostle Peter: “one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father” (Eph 4:5). The Church is a sign and seed of unity and universal fraternity, in the midst of a globalized world which, in search of power, too often divides and wounds.

3-    For my part, I am most happy that the Lord has allowed me to be with you during this important time that is being lived by the Church in Canada with which I am now linked by my mission. I know you are carrying out a number of important projects: World Youth Day, the Vocations Congress, the visit of the relics of Saint Thérèse on Canadian soil. These projects demand a lot of your time and energies, but the ensuing benefits will be most enriching for the Church. Certain benefits are already evident. I am thinking, for example, of the WYD Cross that is traveling in your dioceses. One can hope for “a shower of graces”, to use the expression of the Holy Father during his September 1984 visit.

4-    I am particularly pleased to look forward to the Vocations Congress since it is no secret that we must all strive to foster more awareness of the Lord’s call to the ministerial priesthood and to consecrated life. I know that my words will find an echo in your hearts when I say how important it is for the health and growth of the Church and for your ministry that there be cheerfully accepted vocations for serving the spiritual needs of the People of God. The first source of a vocation is the joyful, free and coherent life of a priest.

5-    As you know, after four years in Africa where I witnessed the freshness of the Gospel and the permanent youthfulness there of the Church, I arrived in the southern American hemisphere with its long Catholic tradition. I rejoice to see that your Conference heartily works to implement that admirable document, Ecclesia in America. The meeting that will be in Washington toward the beginning of next year on the theme of “globalization and evangelization ” will be another favourable occasion to increase the solidarity that is so necessary between the North and the South of the American continent. In this regard, I would not want to forget the unstinting work by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace which is present at times of natural catastrophes as well as engaged in the field at the daily service of our most impoverished brothers and sisters in the South.

6-    The  life of an Episcopal Conference is punctuated by some difficult moments. I have learned about the important Doctrinal Note which, having obtained the recognitio of the Holy See, your Conference published on August 15 of this year, addressing the delicate subject of the Army of Mary. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith appreciates the competence and the pastoral concern expressed by the CCCB. I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency Bishop Gilles Cazabon, OMI, Pontifical Commissionner for the Sons of Mary, for his competent service.

7-    In the Gospel of Matthew we read: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The tragic events that have happened in the United States earlier this month are an important reminder of not only the need but the urgency of promoting world peace. The Holy Father works for this untiringly, as indicated in the message published each year for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of January, as well as in the various interventions of the Holy See with international organizations. As bishops and disciples of the Resurrected Lord, we are also to be witnesses to and builders of the civilization of love, to use the happy expression of Paul VI. The theme of the next Synod, “The Bishop, Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World”, is an invitation to reflect on the mission of the bishop in building up the Church, in order to establish together a reconciled human community, living in justice and peace. Knowing how seriously the Canadian bishops always have prepared for Synods as major moments in the life of the Church, I have no doubt this one will be stimulating for that mission which has been entrusted to us.

8-     We must be well equipped to follow the recent teaching of the Holy Father in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, to put out into the deep, “Duc in altum” (Lk 5:4). The Synod will be a wonderful occasion to help us all become bishops for the new millennium. It will be a time to deepen our appreciation of the gift of unity, realizing how important this gift is for the life of the Church in a world that your fellow Canadian, Marshall McLuhan, aptly named the global village. In a world of instant communication, our unity is most important.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that the richness of the Church is seen equally in the great diversity of the People of God, as it is expressed in the reality of each diocese. In a world marked by diversity, each and every bishop should be a builder of unity in the diocesan family, and also in the universal Church, in union with the Holy Father.

9-    Dear brother bishops, it is with enthusiasm that I undertake my mandate as representative of the Holy Father. I intend to continue the work that has been accomplished by my predecessors. Most of all, I consider it my duty to be the heart of the Holy Father who wishes to be alongside each of you, sharing your joys and sufferings, your hopes and challenges.

The Nunciature continues its usual work. As of a few weeks ago, Msgr. Andrés Carrascosa joined the staff as counsellor; he comes with wonderful and rich experience and until recently was working in Brazil. He has accompanied me here today and I am happy to introduce him to you.

10-    When I was a young school boy, Canada was a mysterious far away country; I associated it with what others have described as “acres of snow”. Today, Providence has sent me to serve as Apostolic Nuncio in this country of innumerable acres, in this Church which has shared and continues to share its gifts with the universal Church. Even though the thought of Canadian winters is somewhat worrying, I give thanks to God for the gift of his grace, to the Holy Father for his confidence, and to you for your welcome and your collaboration. For my part, I assure you of my availability.

11-    In conclusion, I have the honor of transmitting to the President of this Episcopal Conference, the Most Reverend Gerald Wiesner, OMI, the Letter of Recommendation by which Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, introduces my mission in this country.

[CCCB translation]