Every year, the Plenary Assembly
of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops begins with the president's report. Bishop Pierre Morissette, whose term as head of the CCCB ends this week, outlined the work that has been done over the past year and the challenges that lie ahead.
Bishop Morissette said that, given the upcoming Synod of Bishops in October 2012, the theme of the New Evangelization will dominate the life of the Church for the next year. This week the Canadian Bishops will be presented with the Lineamenta, which details the the working points that have been proposed for the synod. The Canadian bishops will also have a chance to nominate delegates to participate in the synod, who later will be officially appointed by the Holy Father.
The focus on the New Evangelization also affects how the CCCB goes about its work. Bishop Morissette said the episcopal conference is working on updating its website for more creative and efficient communications.
In other areas, the CCCB has been continuing to work on issues that have been carried forward from previous plenary assemblies. An ad hoc committee set up to examine questions surrounding Development and Peace continues to work closely with that organization. Another ad hoc committee has been working with the Canadian Organization for Life and Family to develop a new pastoral plan for life and family concerns.
This year the bishops learned that, as of 2014, Canada’s northern missions will no longer receive a percentage of the annual World Missions Sunday collection that is taken up around the world. Bishop Morissette pledged that his successor, Archbishop Richard Smith, "will continue to discuss this matter" with the Vatican's Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
Published below is the full text of the Report of the CCCB President. The video of his address is also streaming on demand, along with all of the other public events of the Plenary Assembly
My brother Bishops, guests, and members of the staff:
My report to you last year focused on evangelization. It was the theme that brought together the major points from the 2010 Plenary agenda, as well as highlighting a number of major activities from the preceding year. This year, the common thread running through my report is the New Evangelization. It was Blessed John Paul II who proposed this forward-looking approach to the Church already during the 1980s. The significance of the Pope’s remarks was echoed at the turn of the millennium in his frequently quoted phrase “setting out into the deep”. The New Evangelization will be the topic for next year’s Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, as well as for the upcoming Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America. During our Plenary this year, Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix will lead us in a reflection on the Lineamenta for the Synod. Later in this meeting, you will elect the delegates from our Conference whom the Holy Father will later officially appoint to the Synod.
We can already identify a number of elements that will be key for implementing the New Evangelization. These are based on the experiences of the Church over the past generation, and are also evident in our universal, national and diocesan experiences as Church. These same elements are apparent in the documents from the Magisterium since the Second Vatican Council, as indicated in the two texts that will be key for our Plenary this year, Sacramentum Caritatis and Verbum Domini. What I wish to do in this report is to link a number of these elements to an overview of what is to come during our Plenary Assembly this week.
1. Overview of what is to come during the Plenary
A. The New Evangelization proclaims the message of hope, love and life to all our world.
Our principal resource person for this year’s Plenary is the Most Reverend Robert Le Gall, Archbishop of Toulouse. He will speak to us on Pope Benedict XVI’s Post-Synodal Exhortations Sacramentum Caritatis (“The Sacrament of Charity”) and Verbum Domini (“The Word of the Lord”). Both documents, each from its particular perspective, outline what will be solid foundations for the New Evangelization. Verbum Domini, no. 91, states: “What the Church proclaims to the world is the Logos of Hope (cf. 1 Pet 3:15); in order to be able to live fully each moment, men and women need ‘the great hope’ which is ‘the God who possesses a human face and who “loves us to the end” (Jn 13:1)’….” For its part, Sacramentum Caritatis, no. 84, recalls that “The love that we celebrate … is not something we can keep to ourselves. By its very nature it demands to be shared with all…. We too must be able to tell our brothers and sisters with conviction: ‘That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us’ (1 Jn 1:3).”
B. The New Evangelization is a sign we are moving forward, and gives us the means to move forward.
Spiritual worship in Christ includes a change in our way of “living and thinking” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 77). God’s word engages us as “hearers” and “heralds” (Verbum Domini, 91).
Children and youth show that society is moving forward. They are also the force that makes a society change. Moving forward in part includes the courage and determination to admit, and avoid, the mistakes of the past. Sometimes, actions and omissions of some Bishops have led to loss of hope in our Church and in our world. Our Plenary this year will again take up the topic of sexual abuse. You will be receiving information from the Standing Committee for Canon Law on its plan for responding to a request from Cardinal William Levada, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that all Episcopal Conferences review their policies and protocols on sexual abuse, so our churches and communities are indeed safe environments. As well, the Standing Committee will undertake a review of the Schema for Book Six of the Code of Canon Law, “Sanctions in the Church”. We will hear from Archbishop Anthony Mancini and Bishop Ronald P. Fabbro, C.S.B., about their participation in the recent McGill conference on the topic “Trauma & Transformation: The Catholic Church and the Sexual Abuse Crisis”. There will be a report too from Bishop Robert Anthony Daniels on a meeting of English-speaking Bishops earlier this year in Rome on safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults. In addition, we had tried to have a speaker from the United States to talk about the recent studies by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of City University of New York. These major analyses show the Church there did not do worse than other social institutions in preventing or responding to sexual abuse. The worrisome point for us, however, is why as Church we did not do better than the rest of society.
C. New Evangelization includes recommitment to justice and charity, and reconnects justice with charity.
The “Church cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the struggle for justice” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 89). “Commitment to justice, reconciliation and peace” are ultimately founded on, and fulfilled in, “the love revealed to us in Christ” (Verbum Domini, 103).
Our Plenary will receive and discuss two major reports. The first, by the Standing Committee for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). The second, a proposal for immediate and future pastoral planning by the Ad Hoc Committee for Life and Family. Part of the challenge facing us is to remind our faithful how these two areas of concern are intimately inter-related. Justice and human rights include respect for all human life. The dignity of human life is protected and advanced by the “promotion of the common good in all its forms”, including concern for the human person from conception to natural death, and thus every moment in between (Sacramentum Caritatis, 83). In order to “denounce inhumane situations… of injustice and exploitation,” we must “work tirelessly in the service of the civilization of love” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 90).
As a Bishop who has been privileged to serve on the Executive of your Conference for eight years, and before then as a CCCB delegate on the Development and Peace National Council for six years, I urge the members of both our Conference as well as Development and Peace to find the means to continue working together, to strengthen and improve collaboration, and to renew a common witness. “Love of neighbour, rooted in the love of God, ought to see us constantly committed as individuals and as an ecclesial community, both local and universal” (Verbum Domini, 103). I am confident that our Conference’s Standing Committee will prove an effective way for us Bishops to move forward in accompanying and renewing Development and Peace in its work and mission.
The proposed elements of the pastoral plan for life and family should also prove to be a constructive approach for the future, both immediate and long-term. “Families … [t]he love between man and woman, openness to life, and the raising of children are privileged spheres… to transform life and give it its full meaning” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 79). Once our Assembly has ensured that the recommendations by the Ad Hoc Committee provide sufficient flexibility and adaptability for regional and local needs, I am confident that our diocesan churches will find in the plan an important pastoral strategy “to support, guide and encourage the lay faithful to live fully their vocation to holiness within this world” (Sacramentum Caritatis, 79). The most basic “school” for us to teach the values of justice, peace and reconciliation is the family. The laity have a “prophetic role” in bearing “witness to the Gospel in daily life;” “a consciousness of this must be revived in every family, parish, community, association and ecclesial movement.” (Verbum Domini, 94)
D. New Evangelization leads us to finding new ways to give public witness as community and as individual members of the community.
Christian life and worship are the witness and “work” of Christus totus, the whole Christ (Sacramentum Caritatis, subheading, nn. 36-42). Through “our engagement in the world”, we are accountable “before Christ, the Lord of history”. In proclaiming the Gospel, we “encourage one another to do good” (Verbum Domini, 99).
During this meeting, our Conference’s three national Commissions will lead us in reflections on Christian witness from three perspectives: freedom and formation of conscience (Commission for Doctrine); harvesting the fruits of ecumenical dialogue (Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews, and Interfaith Dialogue); and immigration (Commission for Justice and Peace).
E. New Evangelization involves the use of new and proven forms of communication.
The evangelization of cultures involves dialogue, interpretation, engagement in “every cultural reality”, commitment, and discernment (Sacramentum Caritatis, 78). It includes “recognition of the importance of culture”, “a sense of the Bible as the great code for cultures”, promotion of artistic expressions, “careful and intelligent use of the communications media, both old and new”, “personal contact, which remains indispensable”, and increased use of the internet as a “new forum” (Verbum Domini, 109-113).
The theme for the last Meeting of the Bishops of the Church in America was communications. Bishops from Latin America, United States and Canada came away determined to make better use of the new means of communication. For the CCCB, this will mean better coordination of our three principal communications functions -- information technology, publications, and media relations – as well as involving more creative and efficient use of our website. This will soon include the development of a members’ only website for Bishops and principal diocesan staff to whom you wish to give access. You have already seen the creation of websites for each of the National Liturgy Offices, in addition to that for the Canadian English-language edition of the Roman Missal. Later this fall, our Conference will launch a redeveloped and extended section of the CCCB website to give special focus to our Church’s relations with indigenous peoples.
Over the past year, our Conference has invested and leased about $250,000 in up-to-date information technology and equipment, as well engaged new IT staff. Our General Secretary, Msgr. Patrick Powers, P.H., is determined to lead us one day to a “paperless Plenary”, in addition to encouraging better and more frequent use of video conferencing for all our meetings. You will notice Salt + Light Television among us today and over the coming days. It is live-streaming and broadcasting this report, in addition to our daily liturgies and other moments from our Plenary Assembly. Salt + Light will be interviewing a number of you over the days to come. As well, it has generously provided videos of key events marking the life of the Church in our land. You will be able to observe these at your leisure throughout our meeting.
The Salt + Light resources will allow us later today to do a public launching of the new English-language Roman Missal from our Publications Service. This afternoon, the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada will be presented with a special copy of the only version of the Missal which the Holy See and the Bishops of Canada have approved for use in our country. The Holy Father later this year will also be presented with his own copy of our Missal. This launching of the English-language Missal, and continued work on revising the French-language translation of the Missale romanum, are further steps by which Roman Catholics in our country can acknowledge and reaffirm “the beneficial influence on the Church’s life of the liturgical renewal which began with the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council” (Sacramentum Veritatis, 3).
Greater use of new communications resources enables the faithful across the country to be more aware of the importance for the Church when its Bishops meet in Plenary Assembly. But the hope is also that each of us and our dioceses will become bolder and more creative in using the new media and other up-to-date communications resources. These are important opportunities not only for the “ordinary maintenance” of our communities, but as well for “the new hearing of God’s Word and a new evangelization” (Verbum Domini, 95, 122).
2. Overview of the past year
Much of the work of the Permanent Council and Executive Committee over the past year has been by way of follow-up to your discussions at the last Plenary, or planning in preparation for the present meeting. These items include:
i) The establishment of the Standing Committee for CCODP, and reflections on recent questions that have come forward on the relationship of our Conference with this organization;
ii) The proposal by the Ad Hoc Committee for Life and Family, part of which is the question of changing one of the terms of reference for the Catholic Organization for Life and Family so it would be mandated to collaborate with the CCCB in the eventual pastoral plan for life and family;
iii) Preparations for the revised liturgical norms of the General Instruction and also of the revised English translation of the Roman Missal, all to be implemented on this First Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2011.
There were also a number of important visits, meetings and invitations over the past year, the following of which I would like to note briefly:
i) In January, I participated in the annual meeting of the Coordination of Episcopal Conferences in Support of the Church in the Holy Land. I was assisted by Mr. Carl Hétu, National Secretary of CNEWA Canada. These visits are an important way to show our support and concern for the Christians living in the Holy Land. For this reason, I recommend that our Conference continue to participate in these meetings. As follow-up this year, I wrote to the Israeli Ambassador to Canada to ask that the Christian holy places in the Holy Land truly remain pilgrimage sites. There is among Christians in the Holy Land fear that some wish to transform these places into simple tourist sites.
ii) During February, the CCCB Presidency (Archbishop Smith, Msgr. Powers and I) made a special visit to the Holy See, in part to discuss with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples the question of the indult by which our Conference is permitted to keep a percentage of the Canadian revenues from the yearly Mission Sunday Collection. This funding provides the annual ordinary subsidies to assist the Northern Dioceses. Since that visit, we have received a letter from the Congregation, informing us that the indult and the subsidies will end as of January 2014. The newly elected Presidency of our Conference will continue to discuss this matter with the Congregation.
iii) In March, the President of the Conference of Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Most Reverend Nicolas Djomo, visited the CCCB offices. Each of you later received his letter thanking our Conference and CCODP for assistance to their country. Archbishop Roger Ébacher and Msgr. Powers received Bishop Djomo, and later I met with him as well. His visit, together with that of others from his country who are involved in justice and peace work there, was sponsored by CCODP.
iv) Our Conference had been invited by the Holy See to send a delegate to an international congress in Rome during May, marking the 50th anniversary of Blessed John XXIII’s Encyclical Mater et Magistra. Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier kindly agreed to attend. We are grateful for the help of the Assembly of Québec Catholic Bishops in helping to make the necessary arrangements. As each of you knows so well, it is not always easy for Bishops to rearrange their schedules in order to participate in these meetings.
v) In July, Vice President Archbishop Richard Smith participated in an international meeting at Lambeth Palace in England to discuss the situation facing Christians in the Holy Land. The invitation to our Conference came from the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of Westminster.
vi) Also during July, Msgr. Powers and I visited the Supreme Headquarters of the Knights of Columbus in New Haven, and then in August we both attended their Supreme Convention in Denver. Our Conference is most grateful to the Knights of Columbus for their generous assistance and support.
vii) During August, Salt + Light CEO Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., coordinated and assisted the 5,000 Canadian youth pilgrims, plus the 22 Canadian Bishops, who participated in World Youth Day in Madrid. Father Rosica was responding to an earlier request from our Executive; as ever, he was most generous and efficient in his help and that of his staff.
viii) In September, all the Executive and the General Secretary met, as is our traditional practice, with our counterparts from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The meeting this year was in Colorado; next year the CCCB will host the joint meeting somewhere in the Canadian Rockies.
3. Of special note
I would like to say a few words about two other matters, one an event of both international and national importance, the other a series of events of major importance for all our country. Our Conference as such is not directly involved in either. Next year, as you know, Dublin will host the International Eucharistic Congress. Our two official delegates are Archbishop Albert LeGatt and Sister Doris Lamontagne, P.F.M., who are working closely with you and your diocesan representatives on pastoral planning for the event. This will be the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. Its theme, “The Eucharist, Communion with Christ and with One Another”, was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council, which the Blessed John XXIII formally convened on 25 December 1961. A link to the Congress website is on the CCCB website. The Dublin celebrations have special importance to us in Canada as the previous International Eucharistic Congress was in Quebec City.
The series of events to which I earlier referred are the various meetings and hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I want to thank all the Bishops who have been involved to date in these events and hearings. It is the local Bishop who knows best the needs and situation of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis who may be in his diocese. For our Church, it is each diocese that is the essential and primary pastoral agent in the lives of the indigenous peoples. For these reasons, our Executive Committee will be recommending to the Permanent Council that the Conference consider a new approach to assist you in this ongoing pastoral ministry which has such significance for us. This proposal will be to organize a CCCB forum at regular intervals for Bishops on topics related to the indigenous peoples; these would be topics that you identify as priorities for reflection and discussion.
In concluding, I wish to note the names of the following new staff who serve our Conference: Mr. Paul Bowman, Director of Administration; Mr. René Laprise, Director of Media Relations; Mrs. Diane Palen, Executive Secretary; and Mr. Kevin Sharp, Director of Information Technology. You will have the pleasure of meeting them later today and throughout the week. I am equally happy to inform you this morning hat tomorrow General Secretary Msgr. Powers will be celebrating his 25th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. We will be finding ways all during the week to celebrate this important moment, and to thank him for his dedicated work.
Two years ago, at the meeting of the Plenary Assembly at which you elected me President, I pointed out how our unity as a Conference is so remarkable in our “bilingual” context. We have an amazing capacity to seek and maintain unity in the essentials, while allowing diversity where needed. Pope Benedict, in Verbum Domini, 7, speaks of the “polyphonic hymn” the Church uses to show the different meanings and the unity of the “word of God”. Sacramentum Caritatis, 31, reminds us that at each Eucharist we celebrate “the joy of the communion of saints” and God’s response to “the whole of humanity and ultimately … creation itself”. May this Plenary Assembly assist us in our polyphonic witness of fraternal unity and joy!
The Most Reverend Pierre Morissette
Bishop of Saint-Jérôme
President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops