Message of Welcome to the 2016 Plenary Assembly by the President of the CCCBMonday, September 26 2016
Dear brother Bishops and special guests,
This annual meeting of our Plenary Assembly takes place within the Church’s celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. A member of the Executive Committee joyfully noted at our August meeting how this special year highlights the many references to mercy found throughout Scripture and in the Liturgy. Another spiritual fruit is it opens eyes and ears, minds and hearts, to where loving kindness still needs to be more evident and tangible in the lives of our communities and in our people’s lives as well.
Through the providential grace of Our Lord, the 2016 Plenary centres on mercy. A highlight will be a pilgrimage to the Holy Door of Mercy in the parish church of Sainte-Croix here in Cornwall, together with a celebration of Vespers and Eucharistic Benediction. This week we also celebrate our own Canadian Martyrs, Saint Jean Brébeuf and his companions, who trustingly and faithfully gave their lives in service to the Indigenous People. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.13). As the Jesuit Relations recount, “It will be, however, wholly as God shall please … and in the advancement of the glory of God, if it be only in justifying his goodness and mercy towards this country” (Paul Le Jeune, S.J. [1591–1664] in The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites, Volume 17, Hurons and Three Rivers, 1639 – 1640, page 19).
Our deliberations this week will focus on four major concerns, each a call for mercy. These are not only urgent reminders for us to be instruments of God’s forgiveness and loving kindness, but of how all Christians must depend on divine wisdom and guidance in order to be “servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries” (1 Corinthians 4.1). The four calls for mercy are the troubling allure of euthanasia and assisted suicide; ecclesial relations among the Indigenous People; the growing popularity of “transgenderism”, and the enduring scandal and pain of Christian disunity. Each concern not only brings its particular pressing challenges but also its own complexities and tensions.
Pope Francis in his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia points out that “the true meaning of mercy … entails the restoration of the covenant” (n. 64). He reminds us that pastoral situations can be “paradigmatic: they serve as a test of our commitment to show mercy in welcoming others and to help the vulnerable to be fully a part of our communities” (n. 47). Thus, the Church “must accompany with attention and care the weakest of her children, who show signs of a wounded and troubled love, by restoring in them hope and confidence” (n. 291), for “the way of Jesus” is “the way of mercy and reinstate¬ment” (n. 296).
I pray this week’s conversations, deliberations, reflections, prayer and fellowship will assist us in our respective responsibilities and in being bearers of God’s mercy. Ever attentive to the signs of the times and inspired by the Father of all mercies, may we allow ourselves to be strengthened in the love of Our Lord Jesus and enlightened by the Spirit of truth.
(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops