Bishops of Canada reflect on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia and commemorate the 5th Centenary of the Protestant Reformation

Monday, September 25 2017

(CCCB – Ottawa)… The annual Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) began on 25 September and will continue until 29 September 2017 at the Nav Canada Centre, Cornwall, Ontario. The meeting is chaired by the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., Bishop of Hamilton and CCCB President. Bishop Crosby, who presented his annual report at the opening session, will conclude his term as President at the end of this Plenary. The day began with the celebration of the Eucharist, presided by Bishop Crosby.

The Bishops reflected on Amoris Laetitia: the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on love in the family. The guest speaker was His Eminence Marc Cardinal Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, who is Archbishop Emeritus of Québec.

To commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, an ecumenical evening prayer service was co-presided by the Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg, and the Reverend Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Both are co-chairs of a Lutheran-Catholic Working Group which published Canadian resources to help parishes, study groups and ecumenical gatherings during this anniversary year. The Most Reverend Gerard P. Bergie, Bishop of the Diocese of St. Catharines and co-chair of the Roman Catholic / Lutheran Church Canada Dialogue, was the homilist.

In his annual report, Bishop Crosby highlighted key events in the life of the Church in Canada during the pastoral year 2016-2017, including the Ad limina visits to the Holy See by the Bishops of each Regional Episcopal Assembly from March to May 2017 as well as a Solemn Mass on the occasion of the 150th Anniversary of Confederation to be celebrated in Ottawa during the Plenary. He also provided details about a number of ongoing dossiers and priorities of the Conference, including: ecumenical and interfaith initiatives; the commitment to the poor and oppressed through financial aid as well as concerns about human conflict and habits of consumption as causes of human suffering and injustice; efforts directed to developing a national palliative care strategy; and engagement with Parliamentarians and the general public on a wide range of ethical concerns affecting the nation, such as refugees, opioid addiction, human and environmental exploitation, and abortion. Bishop Crosby also spoke of the importance of the Conference’s relations with Indigenous Peoples and, in particular, of the need to “reflect more deeply on how Indigenous peoples engage all of us and invite far-reaching commitments in our own episcopal ministry, together with renewed discernment on a pastoral response that will draw us even closer to them in friendship and solidarity.”

Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia

In the conclusion of his address, Cardinal Ouellet said that “one of the significant contributions of Amoris Laetitia is how it expands and deepens the Church’s reflection on “the law of graduality”, which perhaps has not received sufficient attention and development. In fact, the continued deterioration of marriage and family life in the West, caused by certain negative currents in society over the past 30 years, has made this deepened reflection more urgent.” He emphasized how Pope Francis’ message “proposes an open and appealing vision of human love, in the image of the Trinitarian communion, surrounded by mercy and thus rich in hope. If welcomed enthusiastically and without prejudice, this teaching can represent a major step forward in the hope that all families might become the Church’s great resource for the evangelization of the world. The family is the road and the oasis of humanity in our day, where Christ and the Church meet and dwell and where, through the grace of faithfulness in spouses along with their children, the Trinitarian witness of the Joy of Love might shine out.”

Interreligious Dialogue with Islam

The CCCB Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue hosted a workshop on the pastoral orientations for interreligious dialogue with Islam, chaired by the Most Reverend Claude Champagne, O.M.I., Bishop of Edmundston and Chair of the Commission. The panelists were: the Most Reverend Albert Thévenot, M. Afr., Bishop of the Diocese of Prince Albert, Father Damian MacPherson, S.A., Father Gilles Barrette, M. Afr., and Dr. Sami Aoun, Ph.D. Bishop Thévenot shared his personal missionary experiences in Tanzania living with people of Muslim faith, as well as his thoughts on how Pope Francis views Catholic-Muslim dialogue.

The Bishops also received several reports: the annual report of the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council by the Most Reverend Mark Hagemoen, Bishop-elect of Saskatoon, and the Most Reverend Daniel Jodoin, Bishop of Bathurst, who are the current CCCB episcopal representatives on the Aboriginal Council; a progress report on the Catholic coalition for relations with Indigenous Peoples, Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle, by the Most Reverend Murray Chatlain, Archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas; and a progress report on the work of the Ad hoc Committee on the Protection of Minors by the Most Reverend Anthony Mancini, Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth and CCCB Co-Treasurer.

The first day of the Plenary Assembly was also marked by the address of the Most Reverend Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, and the official launch of the National Directory for the Ministry, Formation and Life of Permanent Deacons in Canada.