Most Reverend James Weisgerber

Archbishop of Winnipeg (Canada)


An Exercise of Primacy and Collegiality

That Serves Evangelization in the Local Church



The Instrumentum Laboris  invites the Church to ask herself how Christ and his Gospel are to be proclaimed today at a time when we recognize both the unity of the human family and its pluralism of nations, languages and cultures.  The Gospel message must enter each of  our cultures; the achievement of such evangelization demands collaboration for the Church`s magisterium.  Therefore our Holy Father has said that the Petrine ministry and Episcopal collegiality ‘need to be examined constantly’ and he underlined the importance of such examination for ecumenical dialogue.


Primacy and collegiality are both gifts to the Church and they should be exercised in such a way that they serve and express the fundamental reality of the Church as communion of churches. Communion involves mutual recognition and respect, confidence and trust, openness and reciprocal communication. The Church must ensure that primacy and collegiality are exercised in balance with each other. Due to historical developments, there is an imbalance in the exercise of primacy and collegiality. Two suggestions for improvement are made.


1) The bishop in his diocese must be recognized as the teacher, the leader, the unifier, ‘the vicar and ambassador of Christ’. His role is stifled if popular perception thinks he is merely giving a teaching from a centralized level of Church. On the other hand when full and health-giving collaboration is evident, the Bishop is able to exercise fully his munera and primacy and collegiality are thereby strengthened.


2) The Church entering the new millennium has received a wonderful pastoral plan contained in Novo Millennium Ineunte. To embark courageously and go in the direction of the deep, that is to say to evangelize in a new age, the episcopal conferences must be seen as vehicles of collegiality. They are not obstacles between primacy and collegiality, but rather contemporary ways that local churches can engage local culture to develop the particular characteristics reflecting the richness of the multiform wisdom of God.  The competence and authority of episcopal conferences must be promoted and respected.


The Instrumentum Laboris warns of the forces of globalization and their ‘tendency to reduce everything to a common denominator and undervalue differences’. Excessive centralization creates the same danger for the Church.