Pastoral Message of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

Thursday, October 16 1997

Celebrating an anniversary

Thirty years ago the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peacewas established. For the bishops of Canada, this is a most important anniversary to celebrate. It is an occasion to thank God for all the good accomplished by the organization, and to thank the clergy, religious and laity who work fervently and competently for justice and peace in our world. But just as significantly, this is also an opportune moment to remind ourselves of the continuing importance and meaning of Development and Peace.

Gospel teachings on defence and promotion of human dignity

It is not in the margins but at the very heart of the Gospel that we find concern for the dignity and progress of the human person, as well as for human solidarity and sharing. The basis for this teaching, Jesus shows and tells us, is our love for others – sisters and brothers in humanity, daughters and sons of God, members of the Body of Christ.

Jesus reminded us of the greatest and first commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . ,” adding, “a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22.34-40)

Jesus then went on to show how concrete and real this love is: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” (Matthew 25.35-36) To those asking whom he is talking about, he explains, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25.40) Accordingly, these human actions become the criteria by which the Son of Man judges our lives.

Teachings of the Church today

Under the inspiration of God, the Church since the beginning of this century has reminded the world forcefully and persistently, in season and out, that these words of Jesus have profound meaning and implications – for nations and for individual people. Since Leo XIII, all the Popes of our time, as well as the Second Vatican Council and the Synods of Bishops, have spelled out the social teaching of the Church. Indeed, we can humbly say that this teaching is a tremendous gift that Christians offer to our modern world.

Like the Gospel, the social teaching of the Church insists that love or charity is both the basis and summit of individual and community life. It also insists that justice is an essential demand of this love. The social teaching of the Church, with the Gospel, recalls that justice and love need to be incarnated by human institutions and our life in common. This teaching also recalls how solidarity, sharing and mutual support are so essential that social and economic disparity can put world peace at risk. Such is the wisdom that will be inherited by the new millennium, and is found in the writings of John Paul II on social concerns and human working conditions, of Paul VI on human progress, and in the Pastoral Constitution of the Second Vatican Council on the Church in the modern world.

Founding and story of Development and Peace

In the context, and toward the end, of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic bishops of Canada decided to create Development and Peace, an organization dedicated to international cooperation and particularly to the social and economic development of the poorest nations. Thus, in 1967, the bishops called on Canadian men and women to refuse to support the scandal of universal misery which contrasts so blatantly with their own high standard of living. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Development and Peace, the bishops of Canada, again addressing the struggle of the poor for a decent living, asked, “Do we have as a common goal the promotion of a temporal order which conforms to the divine plan of justice and peace?”

Faithful to this vision, Development and Peace for 30 years has helped Canadians be more aware of the needs of the world’s poorest nations and the implications involved in our own lifestyle choices. It has gathered considerable funds – more than $300 million has been generously donated – and sustained more than 10,000 projects in 70 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia. These projects have included housing and education, the improvement of working conditions, promotion of women’s rights, and the establishment of cooperatives. On this anniversary, we thank all those who joined their efforts and prayers to ours and who have worked so hard to ensure that Development and Peace fulfil its challenging mandate.

Tasks still facing us

The urgency and scope of the tasks awaiting the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace are certainly not less today than they were 30 years ago. Economists and demographers tell us that poverty in the world is dramatically increasing, at least in part because of the economic approach adopted by our society. At the same time, with the Canadian government deciding to reduce its aid to the world’s poorest countries, Development and Peace is obliged to redouble its efforts to carry out its mission.

When we listen to the Gospel message of justice and love, we find it impossible to remain impassive to the sufferings of those who are marginalized, oppressed and exploited in our world. Development and Peace is a unique way for Catholics to live out this essential aspect of their faith and so follow Christ.

The years preparing for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 invite us to make a special effort to work along with Development and Peace. According to the biblical tradition, a jubilee year is a time for a fairer redistribution of worldly goods, sharing and mutual support. Even while our own country and our lives are being affected by difficult economic circumstances, it remains our responsibility to help those facing situations much more difficult than our own. As the Gospel reminds us, we are invited to give not only of our abundance but even from what we need to live (see Mark 12.41-44).

By working with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, each of us can be involved in the Church’s ministry of justice and love. It is only through our individual support that this official institution of the Catholic Church in Canada is able to carry out the mission entrusted to it since 1967 and enter the new millennium as a witness of Catholic compassion, solidarity and commitment.

Executive Committee

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

+ Francis J. Spence
Archbishop of Kingston

+ Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte
Archbishop of Montreal

+ Gerald Wiesner, O.M.I.
Bishop of Prince George

+ Henri Goudreault,O.M.I.
Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan