CCCB Letter to Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps Concerning Religious Representation at September 11 Anniversary Service

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The Honourable Sheila Copps
Minister of Canadian Heritage
Jules Léger Building, 12th Floor
15 Eddy Street
Gatineau, Québec
K1A 0M5

Dear Madam Minister:

Last year, on 18 September 2001, the General Secretary of the Canadian Council of Churches, Ms. Janet Somerville, wrote to you to express disappointment on the lack of prayer and religious references in the solemn memorial service on Parliament Hill that had been held 14 September, to mark the national day of mourning for the victims of 11 September. With her letter, Ms. Somerville included a copy of a pamphlet entitled Religious ceremonies involving more than one faith tradition / Cérémonies religieuses incluant plus d’une tradition religieuse, which had been developed by the Canadian Council of Churches following extensive inter-Church and inter-faith conversations.

The concerns that Ms. Somerville brought to your attention were also expressed over the course of the past year by a number of Roman and Eastern Catholic Bishops across Canada, including at two of the four meetings of the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) that have been held since that date. Similar questions have also been raised over the year by representatives of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada.

There are now reports that the Government of Canada is planning a first anniversary service for the 11 September tragedy, to be held in Gander, Newfoundland. At the same time, however, we have ascertained that at least two local faith leaders whose territorial jurisdictions include Gander have not been invited or officially informed of the memorial; these are Most Reverend Martin Currie, Roman Catholic Bishop of Grand Falls, who is based in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland, and Right Reverend Donald Young, Anglican Bishop of Central Newfoundland, who is based in Gander.

It may well be, of course, that other official representatives of faith communities, locally or nationally, have been invited by the Government of Canada to assist in or advise on the Gander memorial service. Should this not be the case, we understand that Bishops Currie and Young would be prepared to assist in any way possible. In addition, both our own offices as well as those of the Canadian Council of Churches and the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, in collaboration with inter-Church and inter-faith partners, would be most happy to advise on this and future occasions.

We hope and trust that the Government of Canada would not again overlook faith communities at moments of national sorrow and grief. The vast majority of Canadians indicate that for them their faith in God is important. Faith communities continue to express and shape the fundamental principles and values that are shared and cherished by most of the citizens of this country. As well, faith groups on the local, regional and national levels, through years of considerable experience, know how to accommodate and respect a divergency of faith expressions in a common service of worship for special occasions.

Thank you for considering these concerns. I look forward to your response.

Yours sincerely,

Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, P.H.
General Secretary

Cc: Ms. Janet Somerville
General Secretary, Canadian Council of Churches

Mr. Bruce Clemenger
Director, Centre for Faith and Public Life
Evangelical Fellowship of Canada

Most Reverend Martin Currie
Roman Catholic Bishop of Grand Falls, Newfoundland

Right Reverend Donald Young
Anglican Bishop of Central Newfoundland

For More Information Contact:
Deacon William Kokesch
Director, Communications Service


Last Updated on Monday, August 14 2006  
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On January 13th 2010, Most Reverend Vincent Nguyen became Canada’s first Catholic Bishop of East Asian descent. He is the great-grandson of a Vietnamese Martyr.