Annual Plenary Assembly Moves to Virtual Setting in Consideration of COVID-19 Restrictions

Wednesday, July 08 2020

Ottawa – During a recent meeting of the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and in consideration of the restrictions on gatherings that are in place regarding COVID-19, the uncertainty of the measures that may remain in place in the coming months, as well as concern for the health and safety of all involved, it was decided to proceed with the 2020 annual Plenary Assembly as scheduled from 21 to 25 September, but to adapt the format to allow for the week-long meeting to take place by videoconference. This follows similar decisions by a number of episcopal conferences throughout the world which, in the absence of in-person meetings to respect physical distancing protocols, opted to move their meetings to an online environment.

Deciding to organize the Plenary Assembly by videoconference necessitated additional consideration regarding the meeting’s timetable and agenda. In order to allow for fruitful dialogue and meaningful deliberation, the Plenary agenda will focus on discussions that pertain to the most essential ecclesial matters. Topics of general interest that are customarily included on the first day and a half of the agenda will be postponed until the 2021 Plenary Assembly. Regrettably, this alteration to the agenda precludes the participation of a keynote speaker, invited observers and guests from a number of national Catholic organizations in addition to ecumenical observers, as well as accredited representatives of the media as in years past.

“This was not a decision that members of the Permanent Council made lightly,” said the Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg and CCCB President. “Discussions regarding the possible options for this year’s Plenary Assembly began some months ago among the Bishops, the staff of the CCCB and the host venue. We have continuously monitored developments with the hope we could, once again this year, gather together safely. Sadly, the current reality remains simply too uncertain to plan for an in-person meeting in a few months’ time.”

While work will continue over the summer months to finalize the agenda for the September meeting, the CCCB will also consider the methods through which information originating from the Plenary decisions and discussions might be shared during the course of the meeting.

What is the Plenary Assembly?

The Plenary Assembly is a gathering of approximately 90 Bishops from across Canada. The meeting involves discussion on a broad range of topics affecting the Catholic faithful in Canada. In normal circumstances, it includes reports from the CCCB’s various commissions and committees as well as the President’s annual report and an address by the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada. Decisions taken by the Plenary Assembly represent the highest instance of authority within the CCCB. The Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg and CCCB President, will preside over the meeting.