Remarks by CCCB President Bishop Pierre Morissette at the General Assembly of the Canadian Religious Conference

Sunday, May 30 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It has been a great pleasure for me to be invited among you as a representative of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at your General Assembly.

General Secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers and I were happy to be able to spend some time in your company. Unfortunately, each of us was obliged to be absent occasionally, although at different moments.

Our presence at this meeting, has given both of us an opportunity to participate in your discussions and to listen to you. It has been an excellent occasion to meet many of you and to dialogue.

Msgr Pat and I have appreciated this time of reflection, prayer and conversation with you.

Religious life has had a key role in the life of the Church in Canada. This has certainly been true in the past, and I am convinced it will remain true for the future.

In his homily at Vespers on February 2, 2010, to mark what has become in the Universal Church the World Day for Consecrated Life, Pope Benedict XVI said:

Consecrated persons are called in a special way to be witnesses of this mercy of the Lord in which the human person finds salvation…. Consecrated persons experience God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness not only for themselves but also for their brothers and sisters, since they are called to carry in their hearts and prayers the anxieties and expectations of human beings, especially those who are far from God.

I understand that over the past year or so the CRC has undertaken a series of reflections on the religious life. My hope would be that the considerations of all the Church on religious life, as well as on the priesthood during this current Year for Priests, will encourage Catholics. It is important for us to have a much deeper appreciation for, and understanding of, the unique contributions and forms of service that the faith community needs and receives through both the ordained ministries and the consecrated life.

Inspired by these reflections that are already underway, as well as by the above remarks of the Holy Father on the consecrated life, I would welcome your assistance especially in three areas over the coming months.

The first is the ongoing and urgent need to encourage vocations to the consecrated life and the ordained ministries. These efforts of course were already stimulated by the 2002 North American Vocations Congress.

As we approach its tenth anniversary next year, it would seem pertinent to me that we review and renew the follow-up and plans that we all had made at that time, and put renewed efforts into place to foster vocations.

Secondly, the Bishops of Canada are convinced that the Encyclical Caritas in Veritate provides a unique opportunity to renew and reinforce our common commitment to justice.

We need special agencies in the Church that are dedicated to charity and justice.

I would invite the CRC itself, as well as your respective religious communities, to find ways to promote awareness of this important encyclical, and to help the Church in Canada in applying the principles put forth by the encyclical to our own structures, particularly those that focus on social justice and charity.

Thirdly, we all share a special concern for the future of Haiti, as it struggles to recover from the terrible destruction caused by the earthquake in January 2010.

I would invite your Conference to work with the CCCB in view of finding ways to explore and discuss with our Haitian brothers and sisters how we can assist them in rebuilding their country and the Church which was so greatly affected.

It seems to me important for us to ensure there are exchanges of information on this over the coming weeks and months that would involve Conferences of Bishops as well as of religious throughout Latin America and North America.

Also to be carefully considered is what degree of national coordination might be pertinent, at least for the emergency responses and reconstruction projects being sponsored in each country.

For my part, I would certainly welcome discussions here in Canada that would engage the CCCB and the CRC as well as Development and Peace.

You will note that two of my invitations to you today – to collaborate with the CCCB and the dioceses of Canada in giving special focus to Caritas in Veritate as well as helping to reconstruct Haiti – also involve conversations and collaboration with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

The Bishops of Canada recognize the present moment as a significant opportunity to work with D&P in renewing its mandate, mission and service.

In conclusion, I wish to convey to you in the name of all the Bishops of Canada our profound appreciation for the generous contributions of the CRC itself and of all the religious communities that are its members.

I am particularly thankful for the collaboration and sharing that the CCCB Executive has enjoyed over the past years with your Executive and your Board.

It is for me a sign of new hope for the future that our conversations have unanimously agreed on the need to reinforce our communion and sharing, including structured meetings as well as ongoing informal dialogue.

These initiatives must involve not only our respective Conferences, but also individual Bishops and major superiors at the regional and provincial levels, not to mention the vital ongoing sharing and collaboration of diocesan personnel with religious in social, pastoral and other ecclesial projects across our country.

This is also a special moment for me to express my personal gratitude to Father Yvon Pomerleau, O.P., for his generous contributions and determination over the last few years to foster closer ties between the CRC and the CCCB, and between Bishops and religious superiors.

I wish to assure his successor that my brother Bishops on the CCCB Executive and I will do all we can to continue this renewed commitment to common reflection, conversation and collaboration between the CCCB and the CRC.

May the Holy Spirit accompany you and empower each of you in your daily witness and engagement.

+ Pierre Morissette
Bishop of Saint-Jérôme
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops