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New Years message from Canadian Bishops

December 30, 2013
family crop
On this New Year’s Day of 2014, Pope Francis has published his first message for the
celebration of the World Day of Peace, focusing on the theme of brotherhood. As President of
the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada, I want to relay Pope Francis’s intervention to my
fellow citizens by taking a look from our own Canadian perspective at some of the questions he
has chosen to raise.
Families: The Pope identifies the family as the first school of brotherhood. Unfortunately, too
many Canadian families live in poverty, suffering from unemployment, experiencing violence,
breakdowns and indifference. Should we not commit ourselves to the full flowering of our
families as a genuine social priority?
Aid to poor countries: Francis reminds us that rich countries have a special responsibility in
building a common future for humanity. He suggests that human brotherhood presents itself in
this regard under three aspects: the duty of solidarity, the duty of social justice and the duty of
universal charity. When we consider our foreign policy, the role of our ambassadors, our
international commitments and our economic agreements, should we not consider these three
duties as foundational?
Poverty in Canada: The Pope recognizes that our world is experiencing a reduction in absolute
poverty. However, relative poverty is increasing, that is to say “inequality between people and
groups who live together in particular regions”. This certainly describes Canada, one of the most
prosperous countries of the world, where we unfortunately find too many soup kitchens, drop-in
centres and neglected, unhealthy neighbourhoods. And what about our Indian reserves where
overwhelming and devastating poverty is unfortunately rampant? Could we not foster true
brotherhood among us, a brotherhood made concrete by our care of others and our sharing with
them as well as the development of government policies and programs that make a greater
difference in people’s lives?
Voluntary Simplicity: The Pope salutes those families and individuals who intentionally choose
voluntary simplicity in their life style. This is a testimony that speaks to all, a gesture that makes
a difference. As we begin this New Year, could we not all reflect on our lifestyle, our
consumption and our priorities?
Ethics in business and finance: Francis invites business leaders to uphold the traditional virtues
of prudence, temperance, justice and perseverance as they engage in commercial and financial
activities. Otherwise, we may find ourselves beset with the continuing financial and economic
crises that have shaken our country and our world. Should not all Canadian business leaders
strive to be international models of these ethical principles?
The arms trade: The Pope’s words are incisive: “As long as so great a quantity of arms are in
circulation as at present, new pretexts can always be found for initiating hostilities.” Should
Canadian companies be complicit in the many fratricidal wars that hurt our world and kill
children? Do not our governments have an obligation to consider this question more seriously?
Organized crime: Our Pope deplores the presence of criminal organizations that profit from the
sale of drugs, corruption, human trafficking and prostitution. Persons involved in such
organizations or doing business with them should seriously listen to the call of Pope Francis: “In
the heart of every man and woman is the desire for a full life, including that irrepressible longing
for fraternity which draws us to fellowship with others and enables us to see them not as enemies
or rivals, but as brothers and sisters to be accepted and embraced.” How shall we help our
brothers and sisters free themselves from the scourge of organized crime?
The ecological challenge: Francis warns us of greed and the arrogance of domination,
possession, manipulation and exploitation. It would be more helpful to consider nature as “a
gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including
future generations”. Since Canada is recognized for its natural beauty and its rich natural
resources, we have an even more serious obligation in this area. Harmonizing economic
development and respect for nature is not easy, yet social and political will must rise to the task.
Will we leave our grandchildren and great -grandchildren a healthy and ecologically rich
environment?
In conclusion: When I look at the state of the world today, I cannot help but count myself lucky
to live in a prosperous and peaceful country like Canada. This prosperity and peace allow us to
strive even more radically towards the ideal of brotherhood. Yes, let us rejoice in the path
already travelled, but let us also remain clear-thinking as we face the path ahead. Citizens,
governments and community organizations, I call on you with Pope Francis: let us once again
take up the pilgrim’s staff. Together, let us journey ever further along the path of brotherhood,
the true road to peace.
+ Paul- André Durocher
Archbishop of Gatineau and
President of the Canadian Conference
of Catholic Bishops
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(CNS Photo)

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