Report of the President: 2005 Plenary Assembly - Page 3

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Report of the President: 2005 Plenary Assembly
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3.      Relationships and Communion 

In reviewing the past year, I wish to note three other developments which are indicative in terms of the collaboration of our Conference with other ecclesial organizations.  

Following the tragic news in late December of the tsunami which affected so much of Southeast Asia, our Conference worked hand in hand with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) in appealing to dioceses, Catholic organizations and all the faithful to assist in emergency aid and long-term development. In all, $19.7 million was raised, an extraordinary outpouring of generosity by Canadian Catholics. Bishops Luc Cyr and Martin Currie, the CCCB representatives on the CCODP National Council, will be reporting on this in more detail later during our meeting. 

To mark the World Day of the Sick and the recent restructuring of the Catholic Health Association of Canada (CHAC), as well as in view of changes to the governance of many Catholic health-care institutions, the Permanent Council on 11 February released a pastoral letter on Catholic involvement in health care. The drafting of this text was assisted by Bishop James Wingle as the CCCB episcopal liaison with the CHAC, Bishop Pierre Morisette, then Chair of COLF, and the Commission for Theology.   

With the authorization of the Permanent Council, the CCCB on 10 July issued a decree of promulgation and the Ordinances for the implementation in Canada of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, regarding the identity and mission of Catholic colleges and universities. Beginning with a consultation of CCCB members and of the Commission for Canon Law / Inter-Rite, this has involved a series of conversations with the Congregation for Catholic Education, the rectors and principals whose institutions are members of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada (ACCUC), and Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, S.J., who until recently was our episcopal liaison with the ACCUC. It is already evident the Ordinances will guide an ongoing process of dialogue and reflection, now entrusted to Archbishop Thomas Collins who is our new liaison with the ACCUC. 

During his 19 August visit to the Cologne synagogue, Pope Benedict said that “Our rich common heritage and our fraternal and more trusting relations call upon us to join in giving an ever more harmonious witness, and to work together on the practical level for the defence and promotion of human rights and the sacredness of human life, for family values, for social justice and for peace in the world.” At the same time, the Pope noted that “dialogue, if it is to be sincere, must not gloss over or underestimate the existing differences: in those areas in which, due to our profound convictions in faith, we diverge and, indeed, precisely in those areas, we need to show respect and love for one another.” 

Ecumenical and interfaith relations have been essential to CCCB involvement since Vatican II. These include ecumenical dialogues, interfaith consultations, collaboration with the Canadian Council of Churches, and engagement in a number of ecumenical social justice coalitions, particularly now KAIROS – Canadian Ecumenical Initiatives for Justice, and the Church Council for Justice and Corrections. I draw these to your attention, because part of our reflections at this Plenary Assembly is how we can find more effective means to be involved in these, ensuring reception and discussion in the wider Church community, avoiding duplication, and focusing on those questions and issues that need to receive priority in view of our resources as well as in light of current social and pastoral challenges. 

At the same time as looking at how we can be more effective and efficient in our Catholic, ecumenical and interfaith collaboration, we also need to acknowledge the work of our national Commissions in fostering, encouraging and managing these various expressions of communion – among Catholic organizations, the Commission for Evangelization and the Commission for Relations with Associations of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Laity; among ecumenical and interfaith organizations, the Commission for Christian Unity / Religious Relations with the Jews / Interfaith Dialogue, and the Commission for Social Affairs. I also wish to make it clear that the decision of the Bishops of Canada to review these relationships is not in order to diminish their importance but to renew and rejuvenate our involvement. 

Three other points regarding our episcopal ministry which is at the service of communion and unity. During our Plenary, we will have an opportunity to reflect on the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist, as the source and summit of the life and mission of the Church. This Synod will close the current Year of the Eucharist, and in a way assist in the planning for the 2008 International Eucharistic Congress to be held in Quebec City. But fostering communion also means facing up to sin and its damage to communion. Our Plenary will discuss a proposed new decree for the Sacrament of Penance, as well as the pastoral need for ongoing reflections on healing the wounds inflicted on victims, on all our faithful and on the ministries of the Church because of sexual abuse. 

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