My brother Bishops, guests, and members of the staff:
My report to you last year focused on evangelization. It was the theme that brought together the major points from the 2010 Plenary agenda, as well as highlighting a number of major activities from the preceding year. This year, the common thread running through my report is the New Evangelization. It was Blessed John Paul II who proposed this forward-looking approach to the Church already during the 1980s. The significance of the Pope’s remarks was echoed at the turn of the millennium in his frequently quoted phrase “setting out into the deep”. The New Evangelization will be the topic for next year’s Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, as well as for the upcoming Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in
We can already identify a number of elements that will be key for implementing the New Evangelization. These are based on the experiences of the Church over the past generation, and are also evident in our universal, national and diocesan experiences as Church. These same elements are apparent in the documents from the Magisterium since the Second Vatican Council, as indicated in the two texts that will be key for our Plenary this year, Sacramentum Caritatis and Verbum Domini. What I wish to do in this report is to link a number of these elements to an overview of what is to come during our Plenary Assembly this week.
1. Overview of what is to come during the Plenary
A. The New Evangelization proclaims the message of hope, love and life to all our world.
Our principal resource person for this year’s Plenary is the Most Reverend Robert Le Gall, Archbishop of Toulouse. He will speak to us on Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Exhortations Sacramentum Caritatis (“The Sacrament of Charity”) and Verbum Domini (“The Word of the Lord”). Both documents, each from its particular perspective, outline what will be solid foundations for the New Evangelization. Verbum Domini, no. 91, states: “What the Church proclaims to the world is the Logos of Hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15); in order to be able to live fully each moment, men and women need ‘the great hope’ which is ‘the God who possesses a human face and who “loves us to the end” (Jn 13:1)’….” For its part, Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 84, recalls that “The love that we celebrate … is not something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature it demands to be shared with all…. We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: ‘That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us’ (1 Jn 1:3).”
B. The New Evangelization is a sign we are moving forward, and gives us the means to move forward.
Spiritual worship in Christ includes a change in our way of “living and thinking” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 77). God’s word engages us as “hearers” and “heralds” (Verbum Domini, 91).
Children and youth show that society is moving forward. They are also the force that makes a society change. Moving forward in part includes the courage and determination to admit, and avoid, the mistakes of the past. Sometimes, actions and omissions of some Bishops have led to loss of hope in our Church and in our world. Our Plenary this year will again take up the topic of sexual abuse. You will be receiving information from the Standing Committee for Canon Law on its plan for responding to a request from Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that all Episcopal Conferences review their policies and protocols on sexual abuse, so our churches and communities are indeed safe environments. As well, the Standing Committee will undertake a review of the Schema for Book Six of the Code of Canon Law, “Sanctions in the Church”. We will hear from Archbishop
C. New Evangelization includes recommitment to justice and charity, and reconnects justice with charity.
The “Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 89). “Commitment to justice, reconciliation and peace” are ultimately founded on, and fulfilled in, “the love revealed to us in Christ” (Verbum Domini, 103).
Our Plenary will receive and discuss two major reports. The first, by the Standing Committee for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). The second, a proposal for immediate and future pastoral planning by the Ad Hoc Committee for Life and Family. Part of the challenge facing us is to remind our faithful how these two areas of concern are intimately inter-related. Justice and human rights include respect for all human life. The dignity of human life is protected and advanced by the “promotion of the common good in all its forms”, including concern for the human person from conception to natural death, and thus every moment in between (Sacramentum Caritatis, 83). In order to “denounce inhumane situations… of injustice and exploitation,” we must “work tirelessly in the service of the civilization of love” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 90).
As a Bishop who has been privileged to serve on the Executive of your Conference for eight years, and before then as a CCCB delegate on the Development and Peace National Council for six years, I urge the members of both our Conference as well as Development and Peace to find the means to continue working together, to strengthen and improve collaboration, and to renew a common witness. “Love of neighbour, rooted in the love of God, ought to see us constantly committed as individuals and as an ecclesial community, both local and universal” (Verbum Domini, 103). I am confident that our Conference’s Standing Committee will prove an effective way for us Bishops to move forward in accompanying and renewing Development and Peace in its work and mission.
The proposed elements of the pastoral plan for life and family should also prove to be a constructive approach for the future, both immediate and long-term. “Families … [t]he love between man and woman, openness to life, and the raising of children are privileged spheres… to transform life and give it its full meaning” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 79). Once our Assembly has ensured that the recommendations by the Ad Hoc Committee provide sufficient flexibility and adaptability for regional and local needs, I am confident that our diocesan churches will find in the plan an important pastoral strategy “to support, guide and encourage the lay faithful to live fully their vocation to holiness within this world” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 79). The most basic “school” for us to teach the values of justice, peace and reconciliation is the family. The laity have a “prophetic role” in bearing “witness to the Gospel in daily life;” “a consciousness of this must be revived in every family, parish, community, association and ecclesial movement.” (Verbum Domini, 94)
D. New Evangelization leads us to finding new ways to give public witness as community and as individual members of the community.
Christian life and worship are the witness and “work” of Christus totus, the whole Christ (Sacramentum Caritatis, subheading, nn. 36-42). Through “our engagement in the world”, we are accountable “before Christ, the Lord of history”. In proclaiming the Gospel, we “encourage one another to do good” (Verbum Domini, 99).
During this meeting, our Conference’s three national Commissions will lead us in reflections on Christian witness from three perspectives: freedom and formation of conscience (Commission for Doctrine); harvesting the fruits of ecumenical dialogue (Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue); and immigration (Commission for Justice and Peace).
E. New Evangelization involves the use of new and proven forms of communication.
The evangelization of cultures involves dialogue, interpretation, engagement in “every cultural reality”, commitment, and discernment (Sacramentum Caritatis, 78). It includes “recognition of the importance of culture”, “a sense of the Bible as the great code for cultures”, promotion of artistic expressions, “careful and intelligent use of the communications media, both old and new”, “personal contact, which remains indispensable”, and increased use of the internet as a “new forum” (Verbum Domini, 109-113).
The theme for the last Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in
Over the past year, our Conference has invested and leased about $250,000 in up-to-date information technology and equipment, as well engaged new IT staff. Our
The Salt + Light resources will allow us later today to do a public launching of the new English-language Roman Missal from our Publications Service. This afternoon, the Apostolic Nuncio to
Greater use of new communications resources enables the faithful across the country to be more aware of the importance for the Church when its Bishops meet in Plenary Assembly. But the hope is also that each of us and our dioceses will become bolder and more creative in using the new media and other up-to-date communications resources. These are important opportunities not only for the “ordinary maintenance” of our communities, but as well for “the new hearing of God’s Word and a new evangelization” (Verbum Domini, 95, 122).
2. Overview of the past year
Much of the work of the Permanent Council and Executive Committee over the past year has been by way of follow-up to your discussions at the last Plenary, or planning in preparation for the present meeting. These items include:
i) The establishment of the Standing Committee for CCODP, and reflections on recent questions that have come forward on the relationship of our Conference with this organization;
ii) The proposal by the Ad Hoc Committee for Life and Family, part of which is the question of changing one of the terms of reference for the Catholic Organization for Life and Family so it would be mandated to collaborate with the CCCB in the eventual pastoral plan for life and family;
iii) Preparations for the revised liturgical norms of the General Instruction and also of the revised English translation of the Roman Missal, all to be implemented on this First Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2011.
There were also a number of important visits, meetings and invitations over the past year, the following of which I would like to note briefly:
i) In January, I participated in the annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the
ii) During February, the CCCB Presidency (Archbishop Smith, Msgr. Powers and I) made a special visit to the Holy See, in part to discuss with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples the question of the indult by which our Conference is permitted to keep a percentage of the Canadian revenues from the yearly Mission Sunday Collection. This funding provides the annual ordinary subsidies to assist the Northern Dioceses. Since that visit, we have received a letter from the Congregation, informing us that the indult and the subsidies will end as of January 2014. The newly elected Presidency of our Conference will continue to discuss this matter with the Congregation.
iii) In March, the President of the Conference of Bishops of the Democratic Republic of
iv) Our Conference had been invited by the Holy See to send a delegate to an international congress in
v) In July, Vice President Archbishop Richard Smith participated in an international meeting at
vi) Also during July, Msgr. Powers and I visited the Supreme Headquarters of the Knights of Columbus in
vii) During August, Salt + Light CEO Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., coordinated and assisted the 5,000 Canadian youth pilgrims, plus the 22 Canadian Bishops, who participated in World Youth Day in Madrid. Father Rosica was responding to an earlier request from our Executive; as ever, he was most generous and efficient in his help and that of his staff.
viii) In September, all the Executive and the
3. Of special note
I would like to say a few words about two other matters, one an event of both international and national importance, the other a series of events of major importance for all our country. Our Conference as such is not directly involved in either. Next year, as you know,
The series of events to which I earlier referred are the various meetings and hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I want to thank all the Bishops who have been involved to date in these events and hearings. It is the local Bishop who knows best the needs and situation of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis who may be in his diocese. For our Church, it is each diocese that is the essential and primary pastoral agent in the lives of the indigenous peoples. For these reasons, our Executive Committee will be recommending to the Permanent Council that the Conference consider a new approach to assist you in this ongoing pastoral ministry which has such significance for us. This proposal will be to organize a CCCB forum at regular intervals for Bishops on topics related to the indigenous peoples; these would be topics that you identify as priorities for reflection and discussion.
In concluding, I wish to note the names of the following new staff who serve our Conference: Mr.
Two years ago, at the meeting of the Plenary Assembly at which you elected me President, I pointed out how our unity as a Conference is so remarkable in our “bilingual” context. We have an amazing capacity to seek and maintain unity in the essentials, while allowing diversity where needed. Pope Benedict, in Verbum Domini, 7, speaks of the “polyphonic hymn” the Church uses to show the different meanings and the unity of the “word of God”. Sacramentum Caritatis, 31, reminds us that at each Eucharist we celebrate “the joy of the communion of saints” and God’s response to “the whole of humanity and ultimately … creation itself”. May this Plenary Assembly assist us in our polyphonic witness of fraternal unity and joy!
The Most Reverend Pierre Morissette
Bishop of Saint-Jérôme
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
|< Prev||Next >|