Welcome to the 2014 Plenary Assembly! We are meeting in Beaupré, Québec, to be close to the September 14 celebrations by the Archdiocese of Québec of the 350th anniversary of the canonical erection of the first parish in North America outside Spanish territories. Beaupré is home to the national Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré, where we will gather later this week. Like some of you, I have been honoured to preach the preparatory novena before the feast of Saint Anne in this Basilica, and have seen firsthand the importance of popular piety in nourishing the faith of many. Saint Anne’s is a centre of pilgrimage for Indigenous Peoples together with all the faithful from Quebec, all of Canada and throughout North America. In honouring the grandmother of Jesus and the mother of Mary, whom tradition names Anne, we are reminded that the Gospel becomes alive when God’s Word is written in human stories.
Evangelization is our special focus this year. This is our first Plenary since the proclamation by Pope Francis on April 3 that the Universal Church recognizes as Saints Bishop François de Laval and Mother Marie of the Incarnation, two of the founders of the Church in New France. We will reflect on Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World. We will do this with the help of a major intervention by Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, and by means of reflections by our Commission for Justice and Peace, and our Commission for Doctrine. The theme and demands of evangelization will also involve us in discussions on the preparations for the 2014 Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which focuses on “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization”.
On the 10th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Paul VI summed up its objectives as a “single one: to make the Church of the 20th century ever better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the people of the 20th century” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 2.2). In continuing to celebrate the 50th anniversaries of the Council’s documents, we might say that ours today is the responsibility and joy of making the Church better fitted for proclaiming the Gospel to the people of the 21st century. Archbishop Arthur Roche, Secretary of the Congregation for the Divine Liturgy and the Discipline of the Sacraments, will lead us in considering the enduring significance of Sacrosanctum Concilium, 50 years after the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. In line with its impressive series of resources on the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, our Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue will engage us in an ecumenical presentation. Instead of the customary ecumenical greeting and message, this Plenary will feature panel presentations from five ecumenical guests on the importance of ecumenical dialogue and the experience of being in dialogue with the Catholic Church.
Two other ongoing challenges face us as Bishops in our ministry of proclaiming the Gospel. One is the protection of minors and other vulnerable persons. The second is to ensure our Conference can provide us with efficient service and support. Both these questions will be part of the agenda later this week.
In his conclusion to Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis noted the “interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others”, which “makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelization.” United with the Holy Father, “We implore her maternal intercession that the Church may become a home for many peoples, a mother for all peoples, and that the way may be opened to the birth of a new world.” Saints John XXIII and John Paul II, Saints François de Laval and Marie of the Incarnation, pray for us as our Assembly enters this week of encounter and reflection.
Archbishop of Gatineau
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops