Roman Catholic Bishops Ask for Full Membership in the Canadian Council of Churches

Tuesday, January 21 1997

Ottawa (CCCB) — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has made a formal application to the Canadian Council of Churches to become a full member of that organization. The request comes as Christian churches across Canada mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

CCCB president Archbishop Francis J. Spence, of Kingston, says “the past experience of associate membership in the CCC has been important to the Catholic Church in deepening its commitment and involvement in the ecumenical movement in Canada.”

In his letter to the CCC president Dr. Alexandra Johnston of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, Archbishop Spence said: “Collaboration and communal sharing over the years will continue to nourish our ecumenical witness and common hope through biblical and theological dialogue, pastoral programs, justice work in common, inter-church coalitions and other diverse conversations and engagements with our society and culture.”

“While the CCCB and the CCC can expect some growing pains as the relationship develops,” he continued, “the members of the Conference are confident that the significant commitments and courageous actions undertaken by Council over the past few months will bear abundant fruit.”

Archbishop Spence prays that “the Spirit will lead us all together in ever greater witness to that unity for which Christ prayed so that the world may believe.”

Over the past few years the CCC has been undergoing a number of structural changes and recently the CCC Governing Board adopted an understanding of how the Council will function as a forum. Archbishop Spence said in the letter “the common commitment to this understanding is integral to the Council’s ability to foster reform and renewal, to respond to new challenges and to adapt to the diversity and changing needs of its members.”

One of the changes includes an intention of the Council to function in both English and French as much as possible. More than half of all Roman Catholics in Canada are French speaking.

The CCCB’s Ecumenical Director, Sr. Donna Geernaert, SC, has been actively involved in the dialogue that has led to this formal application for full membership in the CCC. “Membership in the CCC is important,”she said, “because it signals the commitment of the Roman Catholic Church to ecumenism.” Sr. Geernaert added that “this witness to our search for unity is a significant sign in today`s divided world.”

The CCCB has had associate status in the Canadian Council of Churches since 1986. The CCCB represents Canada’s 131 Roman Catholic Bishops who have the pastoral charge of more than 12 million Canadians. The CCC is comprised of 19 member Churches in Canada.