Bishops poised to become more effective in the public square By Deborah Gyapong Canadian Catholic News September 17, 2009 OTTAWA (CCN)— The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is poised to become more effective in the public square. Two former Members of Parliament—a Liberal and a Conservative yet to be named-- will join a new standing committee on government relations, said CCCB General Secretary Msgr. Mario Paquette in an interview. The former MPs, who are no longer in politics, will help the committee with government relations, Paquette said. The CCCB president will chair this high-powered committee that includes Montreal Cardinal-Archbishop Jean-Claude Turcotte and Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins. A special standing committee on communications will include Salt and Light Media Foundation CEO Fr. Thomas Rosica, who was CEO of 2002 World Youth Day in Toronto and is a consultor to the Vatican’s Pontifical Commission on Social Communications. The CCCB has also snagged public relations expert Barry McLoughlin of the Ottawa-based McLoughlin Media to serve as a volunteer lay member. McLoughlin Media provides media training to business, political and religious leaders across North America and is considered among the top in the field. On the French-language side will sit another heavy-hitter, Niquette Delage, the director of Communications et Société, a Montreal-based non-profit organization promoting critical thinking, ethics and spiritual values from a Christian perspective. The CCCB vice-president will chair the communications committee. The other bishops are Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini and Sault Ste-Marie Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe. The CCCB is in the process of hiring a communications director who will work with both committees in addition to representing the conference. Gerald Baril, who has a long history with the conference, has been filling in as communications director since Sylvain Salvas departed more than 18 months ago. The two special standing committees, comprised of bishops and lay members, are the product of a lengthy restructuring process that began six years ago with budget and staff cuts. More recently, the bishops have reconfigured the conference’s episcopal commissions, reducing them from six to three: doctrine; justice and peace; and Christian unity, religious relations with the Jews, and interfaith dialog. The upcoming CCCB plenary Oct. 19-23 will mark not only the end of restructuring, but some changes in leadership roles. “There will be some new faces and a new president and vice president as well,” said Paquette, who will be finishing up his second three-year term in February. Msgr. Pat Powers, the rector of Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa, will replace him. CCCB president Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber will chair the last plenary of his two-year term, to be replaced by CCCB vice president Saint-Jérôme Bishop Pierre Morissette. The bishops will elect a new vice president from the English sector because St. Catharine’s Bishop James Wingle, presently co-treasurer, has indicated he does not want the position. This year, there are two candidates running for each of the two co-treasurer positions. The Permanent Council’s composition will change to include four new members elected by each of the regional bishops’ assemblies: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario and the West. The 12-member Council also includes the CCCB’s Executive Committee (the president, vice-president and two co-treasurers) and the Archbishops of Quebec, Montreal and Toronto and the Ukrainian Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg. Paquette pointed out that the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops has changed its name to the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. Only the CCCB will be called a “conference” he said. All the regional bishops’ organizations are now called assemblies. The CCCB plenary will open with a day and a half public session that will feature two talks by Catholic Studies professor Richard Gaillardetz of the University of Toledo, Ohio, to mark the Year for Priests. The award-winning author and writer who served on the board of the Catholic Theological Society of America from 2006-2008 will talk on the impact of the Second Vatican Council on the priesthood and on the relationship of bishops to priests.