Report of the President to the 1997 Plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops

Wednesday, October 15 1997

Your Eminence, Cardinal Turcotte; Most Reverend members of the Conference; honoured guests and observers; members of the Conference staff:

As we begin our Plenary Meeting, I call to your attention two anniversaries that we will be marking. A message by the Executive Committee is being released tomorrow morning, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. At the Eucharist on Sunday – World Mission Sunday – we will remember with thanksgiving and renewed dedication the 175th anniversary of the founding of the Propagation of the Faith.

Also, I wish to point out that the liturgical celebration of our Conference to mark the 400th anniversary of the Union of Brest has been postponed until our 1998 Plenary. Last year, our Ukrainian confreres were in Synod in Lviv, and next year we can avail ourselves of choirs and other resources in the Niagara Falls region to celebrate the Divine Liturgy according to the Ukrainian Rite.

Over the past year, the work of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has been especially shaped by two coming events. You will receive more information during this Plenary about preparations for next month’s Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for America. The Plenary and Sector meetings will also discuss preparations for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

Relations with the Holy See

A few weeks after the last Plenary, the Vice President, His Eminence Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, the General Secretary, Father Émilius Goulet, p.s.s., and I made the annual visit to the Roman dicasteries. A full report was sent to your attention at the beginning of this year. As will be noted in the report on the Synod for America, together with Cardinal Turcotte, I attended three meetings at the Holy See over the past year of the Pre-Synodal Council. As well, in my capacity as President I attended a plenary meeting of the Central Committee for the Great Jubilee.

During one of these visits to Rome, I visited the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in regards to the Canadian Lectionary. Since then, the emendations to the English- language Sunday Lectionary have been approved by the members of the Conference, and we are now waiting for the recognitio of the Holy See.

Also awaiting the recognitio of the Holy See are two other texts from our Conference: the Canadian liturgical calendar, and the Canadian Ordinances for the Apostolic Constitution Ex Corde Ecclesiae, on Catholic universities and colleges.

Among the written consultations on which the Conference has assisted the Holy See over the past year are follow-up to the 1997 Common Declaration of the Holy Father and the Archbishop of Canterbury, a survey of Catholic health-care institutions around the world, a study of the different ways in which the Church carries out its pastoral and educational mission on human rights, and a discussion on Catholic perspectives toward a strategy for global health care.

The Holy See has made a number of appointments that I would like to mention. In addition to the two ex officio members – Cardinal Turcotte and Metropolitan Michael Bzdel, – and the ten delegates and two substitutes elected by the Conference for the Special Synod for America, the Holy Father recently appointed three others: Most Reverend Peter Sutton, o.m.i., and Jacques Berthelet, c.s.v., as well as General Secretary Father Goulet. As well, Assistant General Secretary Mr. Gerald Baril will assist the Holy See as spokesperson for French-language media at the Synod.

During the year there were four other appointments involving Canadians. M. Raymond Boucher, President of the National Council of Development and Peace, became a member of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum; Father Gilles Langevin, s.j., director of the CCCB office of theology who earlier this year completed his second term on the International Theological Commission, was named a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture; and Ms. Jennifer Leddy, together with Mme. Diane Dupras, co-directors of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, have been named corresponding members of the Pontifical Academy Pro Vita.

International Meetings

A number of international events have involved the CCCB since the last Plenary. Last October the Executives and General Secretaries of the American and Canadian Episcopal Conferences met in Montreal for their annual meeting. In late January, the members of the Executive with the General Secretaries joined their counterparts from the U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops and CELAM for the Inter-American Bishops’ Meeting in Saint Lucia. Bishop Matthew Ustrzycki and Father Gilbert Chabot, the Canadian national delegates to the 46th International Eucharistic Congress, as well as Father Goulet and I attended this May 25 – June 1 event in Wroclaw, Poland.

This past summer, with a number of other bishops from across Canada and General Secretary Father Goulet, I participated in the 115th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus that met in Montreal, and which also coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Knights in Canada.

Later in August, as will be reported in more detail at this Plenary, 2400 Canadian youth and 19 bishops from Canada, as well as General Secretary Father Douglas Crosby, o.m.i., and Assistant General Secretary M. Baril, participated in the Twelfth World Youth Day celebrations in Paris. Also attending were the CCCB delegates to the International Youth Forum preceding the celebrations: Mlle Paula Lagacé of New Brunswick, and Mr. Daniel Moynihan from Ontario.

In September, Cardinal Turcotte and I were part of the Canadian delegation accompanying Mme. Aline Chrétien to the funeral of Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Also with us was Most Reverend Barry Curtis, Anglican Bishop of Calgary, President of the Canadian Council of Churches.

The first week of October, two couples nominated by the CCCB participated in the Theological and Pastoral Congress associated with the World Meeting of the Holy Father with Families in Rio de Janeiro. Attending were Mme. Louise Couture and her husband Luc Chapleau, from Roxboro in the Archdiocese of Montreal, and from Halifax, Mrs. Sharon Harland with her husband Robert.

Our Conference has also sent representatives to other congresses organized by the Holy See in 1996 and 1997. Last October, Mr. Fabien Leboeuf, executive director of Development and Peace, attended a study session on 1999 as the Year of Charity, and in April Father Eugène Lapointe, o.m.i., from the mission studies department of Saint Paul University in Ottawa, attended a meeting on the pastoral care of clergy and religious from developing countries that was organized by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

At the present moment, at the invitation of the Holy See, Bishop John O’Mara, member of the English Sector Commission for Christian Education, Mrs. Bernadette Tourangeau, executive director of the National Office of Religious Education, and Ms. Joanne Chafe, who holds the adult faith education portfolio, are attending the International Catechetical Congress in Rome.

Over the coming months four international meetings will be held as follow-up to the United Nations 1995 Beijing World Conference on Women. One of the follow-up meetings is to be in Toronto this November, to which the Holy See has appointed three official observers: Mme. Diane Dupras, Ms. Jennifer Leddy and, from the Archdiocese of Toronto, Dr. Suzanne Scorsone.

Events in Canada

No doubt the highlight of Canadian events over the past year was our being accepted by the Canadian Council of Churches as a full member, following an overwhelming vote in favour by all the bishops across Canada. The event was formally celebrated at the Triennial Assembly of the Council during June in Ottawa. CCCB members attending were Most Reverend Fred Colli, André Vallée, p.m.é., Vital Massé and Cornelius Pasichny, o.s.b.m., as well as myself, together with a delegation of CCCB staff. One of those who has dedicated a great deal of time and energy to helping bring this about is Sister Donna Geernaert, s.c., director of the CCCB Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. Sister Donna’s invaluable assistance will be formally recognized later this afternoon.

Another significant event, also in June, was the appearance before the Supreme Court of Canada by the Catholic Group for Health, Justice and Life. Composed of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, the Canadian Association of the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Health Association of Canada, and the CCCB, the group argued in its presentation that the state has an interest in protecting the pre-born infant. We are still awaiting the decision of the Court. At the same time as the formal argument was developed, a pastoral resource was also prepared with the aid of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family. Copies of Awakening to Life: A Meditation have been sent to you, and possibilities are being considered for diffusing the meditation more widely.

To assist the Conference in other key areas, three new advisory bodies have been established. The Ad Hoc Committee on Northern Dioceses will study the needs and future of the dioceses in the North and their relationship with the southern dioceses. A second new advisory group will assist the Conference in discussing and being informed on pastoral aspects of the Canadian political situation. The third ad hoc task force is on Catholic education, which will advise the CCCB on possible statements and comments in response to developments across the country.

As well, the ad hoc CCCB staff committee on the sacrament of confirmation is continuing its work, and will be advising the Permanent Council over the coming year as to the results of its recent research on current efforts and experiments among the dioceses.

CCCB changes

There have been a number of staff changes at the CCCB over the last year, with familiar faces leaving and fresh ones arriving. French-language Assistant General Secretary M. Fernand Tanguay completed his term with the Conference in January, and was recently named Canadian Ambassador to the Holy See. The new Assistant General Secretary, M. Baril, was replaced as French-language director of the CCCB communications service by M. Sylvain Salvas.

M. Michel Lalonde is the new director of administrative services, replacing M. Hervé De Jordy who left in July. Leaving from the National Office of Religious Education also this summer was Mr. Kevin Ryall, one of two staff with the children’s portfolio, who returned to teaching.

Taking early retirement because of illness, but only after putting in almost 30 years of work at the Conference was Mme. Claire Dubé, director of the publications service. Claire’s years of service will be marked later today. The interim director is Mme. Johanne Gnassi, who also continues her work as the publications manager of administration and copyright.

Two other long-term staff also retired: Mrs. Pierrette Warwick, from the Social Affairs Office, after 38 years at the CCCB, and Ms. Patricia McKale, from the Office of the Assistant General Secretaries, after 31 years. Members will have noticed as well a number of personnel have moved among the various CCCB offices over the last year. Among the changes is our Plenary coordinator. Mrs. Anita Bissonnette replaces Mrs. Annette Arbique, who capably performed this service for 25 years.

On another note, I ask you to remember in prayer Father Gilles Langevin, who recently underwent surgery and is not with us for this Plenary.


In noting this will be my last report to you as President, I would like to point out that what used to be an annual CCCB activities report has now become a biennial publication, covering the President’s term of office. Accordingly, more details about developments over the past two years can be found in the recently published 1995-1997 Activities Report.

I wish to thank the members of the Conference for their kindness and collaboration over the past 24 months. In particular, I acknowledge with sincere gratitude the invaluable assistance and dedication of the Vice President, Cardinal Turcotte; the Co-Treasurers, Archbishop Goudreault and Bishop Gerald Wiesner, o.m.i.; as well as the General Secretaries and all the CCCB staff.

+Archbishop Francis J. Spence
Archbishop of Kingston
CCCB President