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Message of the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Occasion of the 35th Anniversary of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

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In the lives of individuals and societies, there are events that leave a profound mark, encouraging us to grow and giving us deeper insight into life. We remember such events. We celebrate their anniversaries – to rekindle memories, to grasp their special meaning more fully, to be re-inspired by their spirit and accomplishments.

This year, the Catholic Church in Canada is celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). Created by the Bishops of Canada, its purpose is to aid the oppressed and impoverished people of the world, to support them in their struggles for justice, and to help educate Canadians about the problems of underdevelopment and the obstacles to world peace.

This anniversary is an important occasion to praise the fine work that Development and Peace has done over the years, and to reflect on the crucial question of world justice.

Our world has changed enormously over the last 35 years. Over the years, technology has made tremendous strides. There is greater awareness of the need to respect and promote human rights, and a number of political and social barriers have been dismantled. Yet at the same time, in almost every region of the world, major conflicts continue to pit nations against nations. As for the multitudes of the poor, they continue to live in stark contrast to the affluence of the rich whose advances too often depend on the underdevelopment of others.

1. Development and Peace and the Mission of the Church

Concern for the dignity of the human person is at the very heart of the teachings of Jesus. Throughout his time on earth, he gave special attention to those in need, the destitute and the poor. The message of love he left his disciples is at the heart of the mission entrusted to the Church. Jesus identified with those considered marginal in society. Remember his words: "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me" (Matthew 25.35?36).

Consistently, prophetically, even provocatively, Development and Peace keeps reminding the Church of its option for the poor. Among Catholics, and among Canadians as a whole, CCODP has striven to be on the frontline of development information and analysis. It has never ceased to recall how sharing with the poor is not peripheral when following Christ. It constantly reminds us all that solidarity with the poor is not only at the heart of Christian commitment but is the very proof that the Church's mission in the world is genuine.

Development and Peace is an invaluable resource for our Church. It makes Catholics more aware of their responsibilities. It helps us live out the universal dimensions of the Lord's commandment to "love one another".
2. Solidarity and Partnership

In one of his most powerful messages, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II reminded us of the "structures of sin" (no. 36). Over the years, the problems resulting from such structures have become so deeply rooted and extensive that they can be tackled only by means of collective, concerted and determined action. Solidarity, the new name for charity in our time, is more important than ever before. But if solidarity is to be alive and engaged in partnership with the poorest and neediest, there also must be dialogue. It is through dialogue that we learn from one another and grow together in mutual giving and receiving.

We applaud the fact that solidarity and dialogue is the approach used by Development and Peace in all its activities, including development assistance. Solidarity requires tremendous determination to be there for others, always ready to be renewed and creative. It involves respecting and valuing the uniqueness of each individual as the starting point toward progress and construction. It means that regardless of wealth or poverty, colour, religion or political situation, each partner can count on the loyalty and trust of the others.

This is the spirit that has characterized the relationship of Development and Peace with those groups that it aids and supports. We pray that this continue.

3. Context of Globalization

The work of Development and Peace takes on special meaning in the current context of globalization. As has been pointed out by others, great risks are involved when the economy moves in a spirit of triumphant neo-liberalism. At such moments, there is need to take special care – with society considering corrective measures, as well as the more powerful and highly organized countries becoming involved – to ensure the economic system does not become even more detrimental for poor countries. We invite the members of Development and Peace to continue educating the Canadian public about international solidarity, urging our political leaders to implement more generous policies for developing countries. We also invite Development and Peace to continue its support for local groups in the South, struggling for a world that is more just, more equitable and more respectful of human rights.

In just a few decades, Development and Peace has extended its reach worldwide.
Wherever its urgent appeals are heard, it has made the cries of the suffering better known. Its emergency relief initiatives are one example. Another is its recent mission with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Congo, bringing a message of solidarity and the promise of assistance for a people long forgotten in international opinion. Similarly, with joy and hope, we salute the leadership of the Canadian government at the G-8 Summit in Kananaskis.

There is a tremendous difference about development work, even its very concept,
when seen from the perspective of global interdependence. Each and every one of us, in our own personal decisions, needs to use this universal vantage point when considering the link between our own behaviour and the underdevelopment of countless others.
4. Peace and Development

We all suffer when we see our planet afflicted by conflicts and ongoing wars, driven by a thirst for power and vengeance, with millions plunged into terrible misery, victims of often murky political machinations.

The very name of our international solidarity organization reflects the connection between peace and development. As Pope Paul VI said in Populorum Progressio (no. 76), development is the new name for peace. How can anyone expect famished and oppressed people not to be tempted to take up arms to free themselves, or to win through violence what they cannot obtain peacefully? Misery and powerlessness provide fertile ground for the most terrible of evils, driving humanity to desperation. But when people are given the means to take care of themselves and shape their own destiny, and so benefit from their own resources, hopes are revived and dignity reborn. Thus the seeds of peace are sown.

This is the aim of Development and Peace as it allies itself with the development efforts of its partners in other countries – supporting groups and agencies that are working for peace; lobbying our political leaders to take concrete action for peace and development; continuing its work in educating the Canadian public. We also pray that this work continue to progress.

The mandate given by the Bishops of Canada is clear. Development and Peace is to work toward building the Reign of justice and peace with all who are inspired by the Lord to share in his work of redemption, joining him in the struggle against destitution, marginalization and poverty. It means working for and with the poor because they are poor, not because they are from a particular nation or belong to a particular religion. It is with these that Christ identified when he spoke of how he would receive those blessed by his Father (Matthew 25).

I am happy that Development and Peace can share its vision and its projects, here and abroad, with partners who have different religious beliefs and are not necessarily connected with our Church.
5. Solidarity Education

The mission entrusted to Development and Peace is twofold. Each is as important as the other and also inseparably bound with the other. It is vital to provide concrete assistance to developing countries. It is just as urgent to deepen the understanding of Catholics and the general population about development, in order to promote true solidarity with those hoping to become responsible for their own human progress.

The problem of poverty cannot be effectively attacked if people are not educated
about its reality and its causes.

In education work, the starting point needs to be what the poor have to say. The poor constitute for all society a kind of institution of higher knowledge. They have learned not from books, but from life. Who is more qualified to speak about the problems of life? Who is more aware of the daily tragedies that grind at the very fibre of one’s being? Who better knows poverty in all its tiring minutiae? When the poor speak, they do not have the luxury of fancy words, but their lessons are as valuable as any learned economic discourse. If society is prepared to listen, it will discover a source of wisdom among its impoverished citizens – and “impoverished” is how we should think of them, since so often it is the system that makes them poor.

The poor are the inspiration for the education programs of Development and Peace. Through its on-site partners and its international projects, CCODP is in actual contact with world poverty, human rights violations and the voices of the silenced. Not only is this a solid basis for its educational work, it is also a constant incentive for Development and Peace to ask itself, and to question us, on what kind of world we want and what values we wish to defend and promote. Confronted by the pervasive effects of materialism, our prayer is that Development and Peace continue to be evangelized by the poor, facing this challenge head-on and courageously confronting the many obstacles involved.

According to the teachings of the Church, the sacredness of creation includes all living organisms. With its 2001 fall campaign, Development and Peace began defending the rights of farmers in the South to own the seeds they need in order to grow food for their families and communities.

I also take this occasion to commend Development and Peace for its Jubilee 2000 activities, its annual Share Lent campaigns, its special efforts to support the emancipation and participation of women, and its many other initiatives that are so expressive of its values.

Conclusion

On the occasion of this 35th anniversary, I wish to reaffirm the support of the Bishops of Canada to Development and Peace. The mandate it received from our predecessors has lost none of its relevance or significance despite the changes that have occurred in the world.

I also extend special thanks to the leadership of Development and Peace, including the hundreds of people throughout our dioceses who work so hard to ensure its objectives are met.

As well, I am grateful to political leaders who are open to considering Development and Peace projects, giving these greater scope and effectiveness through substantial operational funding. In the great performance of the nations, the true measure of a people is its willingness to share with the less fortunate of the world.

Finally, I do not want to forget all those who contribute to Development and Peace, no matter how small the offering, in order to extend justice, peace and well-being in the world.

We are living in an increasingly globalized world, with our social and economic life largely determined by relations that transcend our national borders. In this context of globalization, our prayer is that Development and Peace celebrate its 35th anniversary as a true "multinational of hope".

Most Reverend Jacques Berthelet, C.S.V.
Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil
President
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops


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.