Address of His Excellency Most Reverend Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio, to the 2004 CCCB Plenary Assembly

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Dear brother bishops of Canada, I am happy to be with you today as you begin the annual meeting of your episcopal Conference.  I want first of all to repeat to you once again my gratitude for the cordial welcome that you constantly reserve for me and for the brotherly encounter that will follow in a few moments; in a country as vast as Canada, it is important to take advantage of all the occasions of encounters to weave always more closely the links, the expressions of episcopal communion.   

Archbishop O’Brien, thank you for your kind words of introduction just now. Let me take this opportunity to thank you, the Secretary General and all the staff of the Conference, for the valuable work that you do for the Church in Canada and for the close collaboration with the Apostolic Nunciature.  

1.                 The pastoral year, which begins, is marked in a special manner by a greater attention to the mystery of the holy Eucharist.  First, in the highly significant event of the International Eucharistic Congress, celebrated from October 10 to 17 in Guadalajara, Mexico. I know that several of you participated; such an expression of faith and of ecclesial experience will certainly give rise to important spiritual fruits.   

2.                 More to this timely event, the Holy Father has invited the Church to centre her attention on the Eucharist.  It is a theme deeply rooted in his heart: I think, for example, of the Letters which he addresses to priests every Holy Thursday, of his letter Dies Domini on Sundays, of Ecclesia de Eucharistia of 17 April 2003; and of the recitation of the rosary, to which he has added the luminous mysteries, among which is the Eucharist, that becomes once again an object of contemplation.  It is not astonishing that the Eucharist was kept as the theme for the next Synod of the Bishops, foreseen for 2005; the Lineamenta in your possession, already permit, at the level of the diocesan Churches, a deep reflection of the place of this central mystery in ecclesial Life. 

3.                 To meet directly the entire ecclesial community, persons and communities, the Holy Father, through his apostolic letter Mane Nobiscum Domine (Lk 24:29), has established a year of the Eucharist, inviting everybody to recognize the risen Christ ‘in the breaking of bread’ (Lk 24:35).  This year, which began last Sunday, will end with the celebration of the Synod of October 2005.  The Church is thus called to reply to the invitation of the Lord: to sit with him, to be nourished by Him, the living Bread, to enter into his loving dispositions, to share the received gift, to place herself in the service of humankind. 

4.                 The importance of the Eucharist was underlined also by the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, which aims to assure that Eucharistic celebrations are more in accordance with this mystery and liturgical life; it is indeed in the agenda of your assembly.  I have seen the beautiful publication that your Conference did.  We can hope it will find a wide diffusion also among the faithful.   

5.                 The Holy Father has announced that the next International Eucharistic Congress will take place in Quebec City, in 2008, the year of its fourth centenary.   This very good news, which gives me the opportunity to congratulate His Eminence Cardinal Marc Ouellet, as well as Archbishop Maurice Couture, who had undertaken the previous steps, opens the next four years to the preparation of hearts and to a renewed fervour of the Church in America.  I allow myself to resume the comments of the Cardinal in an interview on this matter: “The main hope is that such a great event, of such content, will help my people find Christ. Christ is the centre of our historical culture. The Eucharist is the foundation of our culture.  In recent decades we are going through a grave crisis, but I hope that, through a movement of new evangelisation, centred on the Eucharist, we might rediscover Christ and rediscover the meaning of life for young people who today don't know what way to go.  (Zenith, October 11 2004).   

6.                 The motto of Quebec being ‘Je me souviens’, the celebration of the fourth centennial of its Capital, will undoubtedly allow it to rediscover the prodigious vital confidence that faith has brought here. We can say, while reading the names of many towns, that this province has been built around a bell-tower, a church, where the memorial of the death and resurrection of the Lord is celebrated and conserved, present among us.   

7.                 Among the aspects of pastoral life in Canada and present issues, I look at the theme of the redefinition of marriage. This remains a subject of major preoccupation for us all.  It touches not only on the deep meaning of marriage, but also the exercise of religion freedom.  The problem of unions of partners of the same sex is debated in several countries.  Your words at various levels, and your pertinent interventions on this subject, in particular to the Supreme Court of Canada, express and defend the basic values that are the heritage of the history of humankind, without distinctions.  

8.                 The delicate problem of sexual abuse continues to preoccupy the Church in Canada.  In this regard, you continue your work while elaborating solutions that allow, not only to face these positions of sufferings, but also to relieve the victims who are the first affected.  Your consistency to look for means to prevent these situations of abuse, as well as the processes which permit the rapid treatment of the cases or allegations, increase the credibility of the Church.  It is to be hoped that this painful journey will soon find its conclusion, thus liberating the Church and her ministers of the weight of the past, and allowing them to orientate fully their energies, their enthusiasm and their institutions towards the work of the new Evangelisation.   

9.                 The reflection on the topic of the dioceses of the North continues, with the possible restructurings. These dioceses continue to be for the Church a great challenge and a source of inspiration for the missionary work which is accomplished there.  In that, I appreciate highly the collaboration that the Bishops of these dioceses have shown to put in action the pastoral Plan which will soon lead to significant changes in the organisation of these mission territories. The recent changes in the direction of certain dioceses can already contribute in sketching a concrete portrait.   

10.             The contribution of universities and Catholic colleges constitutes without any doubt a wealth for Catholic Education in a country as yours.  The Canadian Ordinances for the application of the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde  Ecclesiae have now received the recognitio of the Congregation for Catholic Education.  The considerable time invested in the redaction of these Ordinances shows well your engagement towards this crucial sector of Catholic Education and your concern of ecclesial communion.  They will be henceforth a tool of the first order to support the development of higher Catholic Education in Canada for the next years, for the formation of priests, theologians, and pastoral agents.  In this regard, in a letter address to Archbishop O’Brien, President of your episcopal Conference, Cardinal Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, wrote: “This final step concludes what has been a long and arduous process, and we are deeply grateful to all the Bishops and Presidents of Catholic colleges and universities who have laboured over this document throughout the years of its development.  We hope that the finalisation of the Ordinances will lead to an even greater appreciation for the Catholicity of the institutions involved and to creative ways of expressing the faith in a culture that oppose many teachings of the Church”.  I wish to express, among others, my special gratitude to H. E. Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, for his competent, patient and intelligent contribution in the happy solution of this process. 

11.             The memory of World Youth Day 2002, when hundreds of thousands of young people of Canada, and of the entire world, met around the Holy Father to Toronto to celebrate their faith to Christ, continues to stay with me.  Already, we are announcing the JMJ 2005 of Cologne!  I am pleased to note that many dioceses of Canada are preparing their young to participate in this pilgrimage and to join with other young people to live once again this celebration of their faith.  These gatherings are faith experiences and mark the life of the young; it belongs to us to support them in their way. Speaking recently at Assumption University in Windsor on the challenges of the Church in Canada, I said: “Another challenge, therefore, to the Church in Canada, is to keep alive the memory of World Youth Day 2002 and act upon it.  New structures for young adult ministry, university chaplaincy, vocational promotion must be born to respond to the new awareness of Christ and the Church that is born through the universal dynamic of World Youth Day 2002.  Do not dismiss the young adults who are a part of the John Paul II Generation, I believe that there is a lot of generosity to be discovered among the young people of Canada”.   

12.             This year, the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples began the work for the revision and the renewal of the Statutes of the Pontifical Missionaries Societies; you participated actively through the presence of Bishop Fecteau, who collaborated in the first steps in the analysis and revision of these Statutes.  These works will continue during the next year.

13.             The missionary involvement of the Church of Canada constitutes undoubtedly one of its traits of identity, since for nearly 400 years, many priests, religious, and lay people have taken the way of the mission to announce to the world the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This missionary presence is expressed in Canada as well as outside; I have seen it de visu in my experience in Africa and Latin America; it shows well the richness of the generous involvement of the Catholic faithful in the missionary dimension of the Church.  Ms Huguette LeBlanc was appointed National Director, for the French-speaking sector, of the Pontifical Missionaries Societies; in company of some bishops, I participated last May at the Assembly in Montreal, and I noted the new dynamism of the persons involved at this level.   

14.             One can only rejoice at the spirit of communion and of brotherly collaboration that you maintain with the Sister Churches of America.  The sharing and reflection on common issues at ecclesial level between the Churches in Canada, United States and Latin America according to the mind of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in America, favour the sharing of the wealth of faith and of the experience of Evangelisation.   

15.             Allow me to return again this year to the importance of the permanent formation of the clergy, particularly young priests, as well as lay pastoral agents. The numerous and serious challenges of the Church in the present world, also in a country as Canada, request that priests and pastoral staff have an adequate formation.  

16.             During my last stay in Rome, for the episcopal ordination of Msgr Andrés Carrascosa, I had the opportunity to visit the Canadian Pontifical College, meeting the new Rector, and a few resident priests.  I am pleased that the Canadians will be more numerous this year. This historic institution offers a privileged opportunity, an extraordinary place of formation, culture and international relations.   

17.             In the Roman Curia there is a new Canadian presence since the beginning of the year with the appointment of H. E. the Most Reverend Michael Miller, C.S.B., from Ontario, as Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education.  With him, six Canadians work in different offices.  (Msgr José Bettencourt C.S.S, of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, at the Secretariat of State; Msgr Petar Rajic PH, also at the Secretariat of State; Msgr Joseph Barbieri C.S.S, of Toronto, at the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household; Fr. Donald Bolen, of Regina, also collaborates in the general direction of the Church; Fr. Bernie O’Connor, diocese of Antigonish, began his service in the Congregation for the Eastern Churches; Father Marc Lalonde, native of Gatineau, in the Pontifical Council for the Family).   

18.             As I remarked a little while ago, the Holy Father has nominated Mgr Andrés Carrascosa, Counsellor to this Nunciature in the three years, Apostolic Nuncio to the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and to Gabon; he has been ordained bishop, October 7, in St. Peter Basilica of Rome by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State; he will begin his new ministry in the first days of next November, with residence in Brazzaville.  Canada was present, through the participation, among others, of friends and priests of the Canadian College who concelebrated.   

19.             To succeed Msgr Carrascosa here, the Holy Father has appointed as Secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature Fr. Michael Crotty. Born in Ireland, he carried out his diplomatic formation in Rome and worked for three years in the Apostolic Nunciature to Kenya.  Father Crotty will familiarise himself little by little with your country.  He accompanies me tonight and I am happy to introduce him.   

20.             In a commentary on the European political situation, not so different to that of North America, a journalist presented as the spirit of the age an undisputed ideology, cultural before political, enchained in the ‘politically correct’, oscillating between libertine individualism on one hand and moving radicalism on the other hand: “This ideology, namely, the obligatory and general relativism of values, with, as its consequence, the accusation of intolerance against those who object; the radical de-legitimisation, for that which concerns personal behaviour, of all the links represented by history and the cultural past, the tendentious reduction of all inclinations or  individual choices to ‘rights’” (Ernesto Galli della Loggia).   

21.             In this context, the Gospel and those referring to it are perceived as counter-current, and can even sometimes become objects of marginalisation. The task of announcing the goodness of the evangelical message is entrusted to witnessing and persevering in ecclesial communion. On this subject, and as a conclusion, allow me to share with you, thinking with spiritual closeness of the certainly not easy responsibility which burdens your mission of being leaders and pastors in the Church, the reflection of Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini in his commentary of verses 6-8 of the first chapter of the Second Letter of St Paul to Timothy. “Remember to revive the gift of God which is in you through the imposition of my hands. God, in fact, has not given us a spirit of timidity, but one of power, of love and of wisdom.Do not be ashamed, therefore, of the witness to be given to Our Lord, or of me, who is in prison for him, but suffer also together with me for the gospel, aided by the power of God.” 

22.             The Cardinal asks what might be the reasons for which Timothy could be ashamed, and he lists them: 

a.     Timothy is living with the perception of having been abandoned by God, of one being alone in his internal and external tribulations, being ashamed of his human poverty and of not recognising in the test an occasion of grace; 

b.    Another reason for the temptation of Timothy consists in the perception of the gospel not being connected with every day life. Timothy – according to Cardinal Martini – has the impression that the gospel principles have nothing to do with the realities of every day life; 

c.     A third reason for shame, could be the meekness of the gospel message compared with the power and arrogance of the financial world, with that of the political and military world, with the power of the mass media: the gospel is another, it is a voice that cries in the desert and from here the temptation to withdraw oneself can be born. 

23.             He comments at the end: “We are invited to reflect on the temptation to be ashamed of the witness to be given to the mystery of Christ, crucified and risen, because it can enter into our flesh, deprive us of the joy of the gospel, weaken our vocation and render uncertain our action. This can also happen to us, of feeling defeated when we realise we are talking to persons who listen with almost total indifference.”  

But following the exhortation of the Apostle Paul, he indicates the way to overcome this temptation, which he says was present in the early Church and is present in the Church of today: 

-         above all, the certainty that the grace of God is in us, “the gift of God is in you”;

-         moreover, the power that comes from the Holy Spirit against weakness; the love which comes from the Holy Spirit against the capacity of hatred; the wisdom given to us from the Spirit as discernment, the capacity of measuring the energies and the perseverance in commitment.  

24.             Referring in this context to the vocation of the Church, he defines her as an alternative community: she lives a scattered existence and is the leaven that silently ferments, transforming, little by little, society. The alternative society – the Cardinal reflects on the example of the churches in the apostolic age – even with its sins, remains an ideal of fraternity about to become, destined to put in light the primacy of God in society, to bring out the best that is in the depth of the human heart.

 25.            It is with this faith, nourished by the words of St Paul, which I accompany the work of your annual Assembly and the daily work of your episcopal ministry with my prayers, as we share together the difficulties and hopes of the gospel. 

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Last Updated on Tuesday, August 08 2006  
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