CCCB Plenary Assembly: Address by the Apostolic Nuncio

Wednesday, October 11 2000

Dear brothers in the Episcopacy:

1. It is with great joy that I greet you today, the Bishops of the Church in Canada. At first sight, one would think that our annual meeting is part of the routine of a well-oiled mechanism; in truth, even though this act is repeated, there is always something new because each of us is in a sense new, having been changed somewhat since our last meeting. In some cases, even the circumstances of our lives are new; there are always new challenges and new opportunities for Evangelization which arise and which call on our Episcopal ministry.

2. I give thanks to God who, through the call of the Holy Father, has brought me to exercise my Episcopal ministry in service to this portion of the People of God which is the Church in Canada, in your noble and great country. The material and cultural riches of this country, its traditions, its multiculturalism, allow it to benefit from numerous and different sources. It is therefore a country which may play a privileged role in the accord between different nations and with the Universal Church; this is truly an appreciable opportunity, enriched as well by a proportionate responsibility.

I repeat again that since the day of my appointment, I am resolutely committed to serving this local Church and this noble country to the best of my ability.

3. I thank God for the year which has passed since our last meeting, a year during which I have had the opportunity to visit several ecclesiastical circumscriptions in the different regions of this vast country. This has permitted me to manifest the concern of the Holy Father for all particular Churches, and at the same time, to better appreciate the life of the Catholic community in Canada.

In this way, I have had the opportunity to experience the joy which belongs to the Children of God, and to see the growth of the Kingdom of God among us, noting that, despite many difficulties, the Word of God is still proclaimed to the world today and that the history of Salvationis progressing in this part of the world as well. These visits and personal contacts with the Pastors to whom the particular Churches have been entrusted, have allowed me, in moments of serene fraternity, to know also the numerous crosses which accompany the Episcopal ministry, the great challenges and the enormous difficulties that the work of Evangelization faces in a time of history where the human being, strong in its scientific and technological conquests, often seems to leave no room for God. It is to this world though that we are called to announce the Good News and to do our part to share with others the fullness of life, according to the will of Christ himself : “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10), eternal life which is “to know the only true God, and the one whom he sent, Jesus Christ” (Jn 17:3).

There is no treasure, no wisdom, no law which can assure this fullness of life offered by God, if we do not help human beings to discover and to appreciate the religious dimension of their own lives. The famous words of St. Augustine, cited in number 30 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, phrases it very eloquently: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Conf. I, 1,1). This is the key to understanding the anxieties of so many men and women, worries which only faith can truly satisfy.

4. In this context is found a particular kairos : the celebration of the next World Youth Day that the Holy Father has convoked in Toronto for the year 2002. Many among you, who accompanied the youth of your Dioceses to Rome this past August, have first-hand knowledge of the vast numbers of youth who are searching for God, who love the Church and who are ready to leave everything in order to follow Christ more closely. Certainly, we might be tempted to say that these are only particular moments, sporadic outbursts; we should not consider them as parentheses in the life of these young people. At the close of the celebration at Tor Vergata, the highlight of these days during which we saw hundreds and hundreds of thousands of young people who listened to catechetical sessions; who lived moments of intense prayer in Eucharistic adoration; who met the open arms of the merciful Father in the celebration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the Holy Father closed his homily by saying to them : “When you return home, do not grow lax. Reinforce and deepen your bond with the Christian communities to which you belong.”

5. We are the pastors of today, and this call from the Holy Father returns to us, to stimulate our pastoral engagement, for in our ministry we convoke and guide our people. “Bishops,” says Christus Dominus 2, “have been appointed by the Holy Spirit, and are successors of the apostles as pastors of souls. Together with the Supreme Pontiff and under his authority, they have been sent to continue throughout the ages the work of Christ, the eternal pastor. Christ gave the apostles and their successors the command and the power to teach all nations, to hallow men in the truth and to feed them.”

Not only the Church in Canada, but all the particular Churches throughout the world have begun to assemble the itinerary for this next World Youth Day. This will necessitate constant community involvement in order to achieve together this milestone in salvation history which is World Youth Day 2002. We must ask the Lord insistently that youthful enthusiasm support and enliven priestly and consecrated life, which Catholic communities in Canada need so much. The Third International Congress for Vocations which will be held in Montreal in April 2002 also fits providentially in this context, so well described by the Pope, and so fundamental for the life of the Church.

6. Having expressed last year my desire to know the Regional Episcopal Conferences more closely, I cannot help but rejoice at the invitations which have allowed me to meet with the Bishops of the West, of Ontario and of Quebec during their respective meetings. I hope to have the occasion to meet as well with the confreres of the Maritime provinces in the near future.

For my part, especially as I consider the purpose of my mission,these have been treasured moments, not only for the fraternity which I have experienced, but also because the problems or topics which are being dealt with have defined more precisely the face of the particular Churches which are entrusted to your pastoral care. I hope, I am certain, that the experiences at this level, initiated in such a promising fashion, will be able to grow subsequently, either by the exchange of documents or by means of follow-up meetings.

7. The Apostolic Nunciature, as you know, continues unceasingly the processes which are entrusted to it concerning the clerics whom you have carefully suggested as possible candidates for the episcopal ministry, out of responsibility for the future of the Church and conforming with the canonical norms (Cn. 377,2). There are still a number to be completed. This work assures a more direct vision of different possibilities; it provides the foundation which will favour in the future quicker definition in the appointment of Bishops. As you can appreciate, it is complex and delicate work which requires time and involves great responsibility. In effect, it consists in finding the pastors whom the Lord wants for his people, conscious that, once called to the Episcopacy, these persons participate forever in the Apostolic Succession and are to be privileged witnesses of the Gospel, teachers of the faith and Pastors of the flock.

I must say that I really admire the fidelity with which, according to the canonical norms, Bishops who reach the age of 75 years present their resignations to the Holy Father. However, I would like to emphasize that Canon 401 prescribes that the Episcopal ministry does not terminate ipso jure with the age of 75 years; in fact, it is up to the Roman Pontiff, after having examined all the circumstances, to accept or not to accept the resignation. It is in this sense that, normally, the nunc protunc formula needs to be understood, on one hand accepting the resignation of a Bishop out of an understanding of his condition, while on the other hand not interrupting the government of a diocese and assuring that the flock benefits from the stable direction of a Pastor until the nomination of a successor.

8. In my ministry, I have enjoyed valued collaboration at the Nunciature; in this regard, I would like to thank once again the Archbishop of Sherbrooke who permitted a young priest of his diocese to work beside me full-time for one year. I would like also to thank the Bishops of Chicoutimi and Sault Ste. Marie who have allowed for the realization of my desire to engage full-time two priest collaborators; these are now part of the team at the Nunciature. They help me with generous committment, one following especially documents in French, and the other those in English. I would like also to express my gratitude to the Archbishop of Ottawa who, on several occasions, has generously helped me to resolve some material problems at the Nunciature as well.

9. Last Sunday, the Holy Father, surrounded by 1,500 bishops from around the world, the most impressive number of prelates gathered since the Council, proclaimed the Act of Entrustment to Mary Most Holy, emphasizing her role in the mystery of salvation, in the life of the Church and in the life of each Christian. May the Virgin make her presence known in the midst of this assembly and, by her intercession, may she obtain for you ever-abundant fruitfulness.

+ Paolo Romeo
Apostolic Nuncio to Canada