Message of Welcome to the 2019 Plenary Assembly by the President of the CCCBMonday, September 23 2019
Dear brother Bishops and invited guests,
Welcome to this Plenary Assembly which comes just a few days before the beginnings of the Extraordinary Missionary Month and the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazonian Region.
In his address last year to the world’s National Directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Pope Francis pointed out his hope “that the conjuncture of these two events may help us fix our gaze on Jesus Christ while addressing problems and issues, resources and needs“, and so “help us renew our commitment of service to the Gospel“. The keynote speaker for our Plenary Assembly this year, Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, in his essay found in the Guide for the Extraordinary Missionary Month, notes that the Second Vatican Council provides the following understanding of the Church’s missionary mandate from Our Lord: that the example of the Church may lead all people and nations “to the faith, the freedom and the peace of Christ” (Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church, Ad Gentes, 5; cited in his essay, “Missio in the Trinity: Origin of the missio of the Church,” Part 1).
In addition to the address on the Extraordinary Missionary Month by Archbishop Dal Toso the opening day of the Plenary Assembly, our agenda during the week includes opportunities to reflect on and discuss the XV Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment; current challenges within Canadian society to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience; the implementation of the Conference’s new guidelines on responsible ministry and the protection of minors and vulnerable persons; proposals about possible future initiatives by the Church across Canada in the accompaniment of Indigenous Peoples; and current initiatives that are part of our journey as Bishops with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in its ongoing renewal.
These aspects of our Plenary Assembly find their own conjuncture in our common commitment and challenge as disciples of Christ and as Bishops to go out to the whole world as his witnesses, proclaiming “repentance and forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47). In the words of the documents in preparation for the Synod on the Amazon, contrary to “the globalization of indifference” and the “cultural and economic” alienation of the lives of so many people and communities today (Preparatory Document, 12), the Church proposes instead “the protection of life” that opposes the culture of waste, of falsehood, of exploitation, and of oppression (Instrumentum laboris, 17).
In his 1 June 2018 speech cited above in preparation for the upcoming Extraordinary Missionary Month, Pope Francis appealed again for “The missionary conversion of the structures of the Church” which also involves the call to “personal holiness and spiritual creativity“. He explained how this “is not merely about renewing the old” but includes being “on guard” about what is not acceptable in order to make “room for the Spirit” to “create newness, to make all things new.”
May the Holy Spirit make of this Plenary Assembly an opportunity for each of us to discover and deepen how renewed missionary zeal is to be heedful of all creation “groaning in labour pains” (Romans 8:22), to recognize in solidarity the painful brokenness of the human heart, and to offer to the world and all its peoples the liberating message of Christ’s good news.
Sincerely yours in Christ the Good Shepherd,
Bishop Lionel Gendron, P.S.S.
Bishop of Saint-Jean-Longueuil
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops