MESSAGE OF WELCOME TO THE 2018 PLENARY ASSEMBLY BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE CCCBMonday, September 24 2018
Dear Brothers in the episcopacy and invited guests,
To each of you, a warm welcome to our annual Plenary Assembly in Cornwall. As Bishops, we gather in the Lord’s name, with fraternal and collegial solicitude to undertake, in a spirit of profound communion and solidarity, those tasks set before us and framed within a nationwide perspective so as to advance the mission entrusted to us by the Lord and to which we dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly.
This year, our Assembly takes on a particular connotation of celebration and recognition as we mark the 75th anniversary of our Conference’s foundation in 1943 – officially recognized by the Holy See in 1948 – as a permanently constituted, national episcopal assembly. It was indeed in the month of October of that 1943, in Québec City, when the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, then called the Canadian Catholic Conference, was born. We will pray in thanksgiving throughout this week for the blessings, opportunities and accomplishments which this episcopal body received and responded to by the grace of God. This is likewise a unique opportunity to acknowledge humbly the great things that the Lord has accomplished in and through our Conference and its different offices, agencies and dedicated members and personnel. We will underscore this event in a myriad of ways throughout the week.
Another very important aspect of this year’s Plenary Assembly is the protection of minors. The CCCB was indeed prophetic and avant-garde in the publishing of our first national guidelines From Pain to Hope, already 26 years now. With the experience of the decades and the urgency of the cause, we have worked diligently at a comprehensive update of the guidelines. The new document, Protecting minors from sexual abuse, is truly an act of collegiality and one which likewise took many years of reflection, prayer, consultation and discernment. When published, it will indubitably provide the necessary and clear parameters so that the mission of the Church be made ever more fruitful in a context of transparency, accountability, safety and pastoral care.
Throughout the week, marked with significant moments of prayer and sharing, study and communal discernment, deliberations and decision-making, we shall strive to imbue our time together especially with a sincere spirit of seeking and reading the signs of the times in our contemporary ecclesial and social landscape. We will consider the numerous activities and initiatives in which we have been engaged, and we will ascertain together, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, those paths and journeys that require special attention. In particular, our time together will provide us with moments of discussion on the many ways we are engaged in renewing and strengthening the Church’s relationships with our Indigenous brothers and sisters and how we are called to forge ahead in new and creative ways in this vital and important area of pastoral concern from coast to coast.
In this vein, I wish to recall the challenging words of our Holy Father who, in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, poignantly wrote: “Each particular Church, as a portion of the Catholic Church under the leadership of its bishop, is likewise called to missionary conversion. It is the primary subject of evangelization, since it is the concrete manifestation of the one Church in one specific place, and in it ‘the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Christ is truly present and operative’. It is the Church incarnate in a certain place, equipped with all the means of salvation bestowed by Christ, but with local features. Its joy in communicating Jesus Christ is expressed both by a concern to preach him to areas in greater need and in constantly going forth to the outskirts of its own territory or towards new sociocultural settings. Wherever the need for the light and the life of the Risen Christ is greatest, it will want to be there. To make this missionary impulse ever more focused, generous and fruitful, I encourage each particular Church to undertake a resolute process of discernment, purification and reform.” (EG,30)
As the Assembly of Bishops gathers together, we will similarly address a variety of other topics including the forthcoming General Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment in Rome, palliative care, pastoral care for families, and the Church’s social outreach to those in need. As Bishops, we are successors of the Apostles and spiritual leaders of the flocks entrusted to our pastoral care. Lest we forget, however, we are firstly missionary disciples of Christ and members of his Mystical Body. We gather therefore in a spirit of humility and animated solely by the saving message of the Gospel as we endeavour to express and enact our collegial responsibility through this collective meeting and strive to better coordinate our pastoral ministries on behalf of God’s People, Christ’s faithful and our brethren, whom we are called to serve with the heart of the Good Shepherd. May the Spirit of truth, wisdom and courage be showered upon our gathering in abundance through the powerful and maternal intercession of Mary, Mother of the Church, of Saint Joseph, patron saint of Canada, and of Saint François de Laval, Patron of the Bishops of Canada.
Sincerely yours in Christ the Good Shepherd,
+Lionel Gendron, P.S.S.
Bishop of St-Jean-Longueuil
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops