CCCB Annual Plenary Assembly Begins in Cornwall

Tuesday, October 19 2004

(Cornwall – CCCB) Archbishop Brendan M. O’Brien of St. John’s, Nfld., the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), yesterday told more than 80 bishops gathered in Cornwall, Ontario, for the CCCB annual Plenary meeting that the past year was filled with many challenges for the Church in Canada.

“The past few months have also been major moments in other controversies involving ethical and human concerns,” he said. “These debates are about the basic values and principles that shape the lives of individual persons, the welfare of our communities, and the future of society.”

He was referring to the CCCB’s involvement in the debates on new reproductive technologies, the redefinition of marriage, which recently was before the Supreme Court of Canada, and the CCCB reflections on responsibility and discernment which preceded the 2004 federal election.

“These debates are vital for our Church and our society,” he said in his annual report. “They show how secularization continues to open as well as to close doors to discussions on values and principles. They signal that the Christian community is deeply committed to, and concerned about, its mission to be a witness to the world.”

“Despite the current trend that sees human rights simply as various entitlements for individuals, the debates indicate how the dignity of the individual person is inseparable from the welfare of the community and the common good,” he said.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Ventura, reminded the bishops of the difficulties in proclaiming the Good News in the new millennium.

“The Gospel and those referring to it are perceived as counter-current, and can even sometimes become objects of marginalization,” he said. “The task of announcing the goodness of the evangelical message is entrusted to witnessing and persevering in ecclesial communion.”

The Plenary assembly also received an interim report from the Special Taskforce on the Review of From Pain to Hope, the CCCB guidelines on sexual abuse. Taskforce co-chairmen Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg and Bishop Eugène Tremblay of Amos indicated it would take another year before the Taskforce would file a complete report to the Plenary assembly.

They reported on meetings held over the past year, including some with abuse victims and experts from other organizations involved in working with children. The Taskforce hopes to propose guidelines that will allow for the creation of safe environments for pastoral work, increased transparency in dealing with problems related to sexual abuse, and discerning levels of accountability regarding sexual abuse.

The bishops also heard reports from the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace(CCODP), the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF) and the Ad Hoc National Committee on Youth and Vocations.

The Plenary assembly continues until Saturday with discussions planned on a number of pastoral issues and financial matters.

The CCCB is the national assembly of the Bishops of Canada. It supports the bishops in their diocesan work through resources and reflections in different areas such as ecumenism, theology, liturgy, social affairs, Christian education and communications. The CCCB is involved in matters of national and international scope, and provides the bishops a forum where they can share their experience and insight on the life of the Church and the major events that shape society