Chinese Religious Delegation Visits the CCCB

Friday, February 21 2003

(CCCB – Ottawa) A delegation of Chinese government and religious representatives visited the offices of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, February 17.

The delegation, on an official visit to Canada and the United States, was headed by Mr. Ye Xiaowen, Director-General of the State Administration for Religious Affairs. He was accompanied by Bishop Fu Tieshan of Beijing, President of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, as well as ten other Chinese dignitaries.

The CCCB was represented by a delegation led by Archbishop Marcel Gervais of Ottawa who told the visitors that Church and government function side by side in Canada in a spirit of openness toward each other’s autonomy and diversity.

“The relationship between State and Church has evolved throughout Canadian history and we now have a rapport that is distinguished by respect, cooperation and transparency,” Archbishop Gervais told the Chinese representatives. He pointed to the cooperation of government and Church in organizing last summer’s World Youth Day 2002.

The purpose of the visit was to outline CCCB involvement in ecumenical, ethical, pastoral and faith education programs in Canada, and to show how religious diversity in Canada, respect for each other’s differences and the respective autonomy of Church and state were ways of ensuring religious freedom in Canada.

Archbishop Gervais said he hoped the meeting would be a start “of a very positive dialogue leading to deeper mutual understanding.” He concluded that “while our short time together will no doubt whet our appetite, it is my hope that we will see the beginning of mutual interests that will have many tomorrows.”

The Canadian portion of the visit was coordinated with the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) in collaboration with the Federal government’s Department of Foreign Affairs. It was a follow-up to a visit by a CCC delegation to China in 1999, in which Bishop André Vallée, P.M.É., of Hearst represented the CCCB. Bishop Vallée is currently President of the Canadian Council of Churches.