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God's will is nothing but Love: Cardinal Ouellet's farewell homily

August 20, 2010
Canada is saying goodbye to its Primate. Fittingly, Cardinal Marc Ouellet does so across the country with an interview on the CBC’s The National. (Note: the interview was recorded Thursday and was advertised to air tonight, but it has been rescheduled for Sunday.) He departs for the Vatican on Tuesday to take up his new position as the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.
The Archbishop of Québec gave a more intimate farewell on Sunday at the shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré. There he reflected on his experience at the helm of Canada’s first diocese. He summarized his nearly eight-year episcopal ministry in Quebec City as “a call reprised one thousand-times on the same theme: the Resurrection of Christ and the faith of the Church lived perfectly by Mary, the Servant of the Lord.”
The Cardinal reaffirmed that the cultural identity of Quebec has been formed by the mysteries of faith. Known for his candour in confronting his province’s challenges, he also asked for forgiveness for any hurt his words or decisions may have caused.
If you missed S+L’s rebroadcast of the celebration this past Tuesday, you can watch it at ECDQ.tv, the media portal of the Archdiocese of Québec. Published below is Salt + Light’s unofficial translation of Cardinal Ouellet’s farewell homily.
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE VIRGIN MARY
Credit: Deborah Gyapong / CCNDear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,
On November 15, 2002, I welcomed, in the Spirit of the Lord, the mission of pastoral service in the Archdiocese of Québec.
On this day, August 15th, 2010, I leave our country to respond to the call of the Holy Father, our Pope Benedict XVI, who appointed me to direct the Congregation for Bishops and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. It is again in this same Spirit of the Lord that I would like to share my thanksgiving to God and my gratitude towards you for these blessed years that He has given us to live together.
During these eight years, bonds have been formed between us: I have experienced profound joys, numerous consolations even amidst challenges, and also moments that have marked my ministry as Archbishop of Québec and Primate of Canada. I am convinced that these bonds formed by the Lord will survive and I pray to God to render fruitful the sacrifice of this departure by accepting, both you and me, His will for our lives. His will is nothing but Love, I experienced it at the heart of this large diocesan family, which I have loved and will miss.
It is a particular joy to live this “goodbye” during the liturgical framework of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Most Holy Virgin. It is a feast that is dear to the Christian tradition of France to which we owe so much. Many of you have come to this gathering. I once again thank my brother bishops, priests and deacons, civil dignitaries, consecrated religious, and all you brothers and sisters who honor me with your presence here in this magnificent shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Thank you for being part of this gathering, which symbolizes all the groups of people I have encountered since I began my ministry in Québec and in Canada. Last Sunday, I experienced a beautiful celebration at the Cathedral of Amos with my fellow Abitibians. As well as at Chapel Island in Nova-Scotia where, as special envoy of Pope Benedict XVI, I presided over the 400th anniversary of the baptism of Henri Membertou of the Mi'kmaq Nation, the first aboriginal grand chief in North America to embrace the Catholic faith in 1610. I welcome here in a special way the First Nations of Canada and I hope that their ancestral rights would be recognized and that their developmental projects would be further supported by the entire Canadian population.
The readings of the liturgy of the Word have immersed us in the mystery of the Assumption. “A great portent appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birthpangs, in the agony of giving birth.” This apocalyptic scene describes the spiritual motherhood of Mary who participates in the suffering of Christ at the foot of the cross. “Another portent appeared in heaven: an enormous fire-red dragon that looked to devour the woman’s child as soon as it was born.” The dragon was defeated by this Child, the Sheppard of all nations, who knew death yet conquered it, through love. He is the first Resurrected. Mary is the second because her Assumption into heaven made her participate in the glory of the Resurrection. The dogma of faith defined by the Church in 1950 affirms that the Immaculate Virgin was brought up into heaven in her body and soul. It is there that she sings with the whole Church her Magnificat for the marvelous things God has done in the history of salvation. It is there, crowned by God, that she intercedes for us, poor sinners, in order to support our walk with Christ. In suffering she kept full confidence. All of her power she has obtained in her fruitful communion with her Son. That is why she became the universal Mother in the power of the Spirit.
My episcopal ministry in Québec was, in effect, a call reprised one thousand-times on the same theme: the resurrection of Christ and the faith of the Church lived perfectly by Mary, the Servant of the Lord. To our society in search of values, I wanted to proclaim the good news of the victory of Love over hatred, the victory of grace over sin, and the victory of Life over death. I have often invited people to cultivate a faith illuminated by the Word of God, which calls us continuously to conversion. I have also been reminded of the grace of the Eucharist, which nourishes the Christian commitment to the most deprived and the hope of our blessed immortality. Our Québecois cultural identity, has it not been formed for the past four centuries by these mysteries of faith? Let us keep this momentum and a dynamism directed towards the future.
It is with profound gratitude that I thank the Lord for these past eight years in which I have been privileged to serve the People of God in the Archdiocese of Québec. My episcopal ministry here has given me the opportunity to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel and share the journey of faith. The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother is a very appropriate one that invites us all to contemplate the Paschal Mystery and to renew our faith in the Resurrection of Christ in the hope of eternal life.
The life of the Church is an ongoing journey. As I am called to serve the Universal Church in Rome, I pray for the people of the Archdiocese of Québec, for the Church and the people of Canada, that we may all continue our pilgrimage of faith, always striving for a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and a greater faithfulness to His Gospel.
I thank the auxiliary bishops and priests for their concern for collaboration and unity. This has allowed us to face the challenges posed to the Christian conscience by our secular society. Despite the recurring tensions, though all have been fruitful, we have walked in fidelity to the Lord and His Church. I have received a lot from you, my dear confrères, and I appreciate your obedience to decisions that have signaled turning points and have occasionally demanded certain renunciations. It is to arouse a renewal in the priesthood that I have spent much effort, because I have a profound respect for you and for the irreplaceable ministry that you exercise. I also recognize the precious help of deacons and pastoral associates. Your vocation is of service and sharing, in fidelity to the Word, to join the people of God through pastoral and spiritual animation.
During certain public debates or in pastoral decisions, I am conscious that a number of people may have been hurt or pained: the message of the truth is not always welcome; it causes suffering for the one who hears and sometimes for the minister who proclaims it. But God Himself showed us that suffering can be a source of life. However, conscious of my own weaknesses, I ask forgiveness from God and my brothers and sisters for all that may have harmed them. That the merciful Father would allow us to say goodbye in peace and reconciliation!
Confident that the bonds formed would continue to unite us in the love of the Church, I commend myself to your prayers that you would obtain for me the gift of spiritual discernment and the wisdom necessary to accomplish my new ministry in full uprightness of conscience. And that my daily collaboration with the Holy Father Benedict XVI would be selfless, prudent, effective and loving. That nobody would ignore the importance of the ministry of bishops at the service of which I will henceforth dedicate all my energies. That the Holy Spirit and the prayer of all the faithful would come to my aid.
Conscious that the bonds of love formed by the Spirit will never die and will always keep us united together, I promise you, dear friends, to carry your intentions daily to the altar of the Lord. I carry with me the beauty of growing families, emerging vocations, and the networks of the Church in synergy. I keep in my heart the poor, the sick, the afflicted, the elderly, and also immigrants who ask for hospitality in our country. That the Immaculate Virgin and St. Louis, patrons of the diocese, would obtain for you the ability to always better witness the joy of the faith and the active charity that gives our human activities their fullness of meaning.
As a sign of my gratitude towards God and you, I address to you a final pastoral letter with the title: Always together on the Way. This letter also contains three texts, which I wrote over the past several months for the universal Church. I desire to leave them for you to meditate on. For certain passages that may require a second reading, I ask the Holy Spirit to facilitate your comprehension and to excuse my loftiness…in the end I want to say what is more dogmatically precise! I dedicate these texts in a special way and with full affection to the youth, to families, and to priests.
Dear friends, I thank you for the support you have shown me in thousands of ways in these final months and particularly since my recent nomination.
Let us thank God for profoundly uniting us on the road of the Gospel for His greater glory and for our salvation. And that Our Lady of the Assumption and of the Immaculate Conception would continue, in the Holy Spirit, her spiritual motherhood towards us, by making her Son increase within each of us more each day.
Let us continue to walk together
with Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life! (Jn 14:6)
Marc Cardinal Ouellet
Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops