New evangelization, ecumenism on plenary agenda
By Deborah Gyapong

Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN) — Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino will celebrate a pontifical mass Sept. 14 in Quebec City, and then address the annual plenary of the Canadian bishops Sept. 15-19 on the challenges of evangelization.

Notre Dame de Québec is North America’s first parish outside of the Spanish colonies, making it a gateway to the evangelization of the continent. The Quebec diocese was once the largest in the world, extending all the way to the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

The pope chose Ortega to represent him as Papal Legate at the mass because he had studied in Quebec City with the Quebec Foreign Missionary Society, said Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) General Secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers.

“There’s a very personal link there,” he said.

But the Cardinal-Archbishop of Havana, Cuba, also brings a “personal understanding of the notion of pastoral conversion,” said Powers. As a bishop from the Spanish-speaking world, he has “unique insight” into the 2007 Aparecida document. 

Produced by the Conference of Latin American Bishops (CELAM), the Aparecida document focused on evangelization in light of the challenges the Catholic Church faces in communicating the Gospel. The future Pope Francis, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, then Archbishop of Buenos Aires, headed the committee that drafted it.

Ortega, who has served as second vice-president of CELAM and as president of the Cuban Conference of Catholic Bishops from 1988 to 1998 and from 2001 to 2006, will also speak on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. The focus of his talks at the annual plenary will be on “social and ecclesial challenges to evangelization and pastoral conversion,” according to a CCCB press release.

The annual gathering, where the whole college of Canadian bishops come together face-to-face, “is itself a major event” in the life of the church in Canada, said Powers. The 80 to 90 bishops and eparchs will meet just outside Quebec City at Hotel Château Mont-Sainte-Anne, Beaupré.

The Canadian bishops will for the first time at their plenary welcome the new apostolic nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, whom Pope Francis appointed to Canada last December. Bonazzi was formerly nuncio to Cuba, so he knows Ortega well, Powers said. The nuncio will address the plenary assembly on Sept. 15.

Another keynote speaker is Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments Secretary Archbishop Arthur Roche, to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s first promulgated document.

Roche will give two talks, Powers said. The first will reflect on Christological phrases that appear in some of St. Paul’s writings, specifically those that refer to the Son of God and how we are all sons of God, he said.

The second presentation, in keeping with the plenary’s theme of evangelization, will examine where the church is in terms of liturgy 50 years after Sacrosanctum Concilium, the general secretary said.
Roche will examine “how we can make our liturgy respond to Evangelii Gaudium,” he said. “No doubt he’ll be making a link.”

“Every time we come together, we come together as church, we are taught something, we are made, we are formed by the sacraments we celebrate,” Powers said.

The CCCB will also launch a major liturgical publication, a Lectionary for Ritual Masses. This provides the official readings for special masses, such as masses for the dead, for various needs and occasions, for votive masses and so on, Powers said.  “We have a lectionary for Sundays and feast days,” he said. “The weekday lectionaries are coming in the next year or so.”

Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop John McIntyre will bring the latest news on the upcoming World Meeting of Families that will take place in Philadelphia in September 2015.

The first day-and-a-half of the plenary is open to observers and accredited media. On Sept. 16, in the afternoon, the bishops enter into a closed session.

The theme of evangelization, however, will continue even behind closed doors, as the various episcopal commissions give their reports, Powers said. “In absolutely every single intervention that’s the thread.”

“The Justice and Peace Commission will be doing a pastoral animation on Evangelii Gaudium.” This commission will also lead a reflection on the Canadian peripheries, the margins where the pope has urged the church to go, Powers added.

The Doctrine Commission will present “a panel discussion on notion of co-responsibility of the laity, on the basis of Evangelii Gaudium,” Powers said. 

The Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews and Interfaith Dialogue Commission will lead a reflection on “the importance of ecumenical dialogue” and the “experience of being in dialogue with the Catholic Church and other churches,” he said. This reflection is among a series of initiatives to mark the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio (1964).

The CCCB has invited bishops from the Global South to discuss the question of world hunger, Powers said, noting concern over food shortages is another one of the peripheries “where we’re called to go.”

Last year, the bishops voted to examine how the CCCB is financed, said Powers. An ad hoc committee examining this will give a progress report. The CCCB has been funded on a per capita rate charged to dioceses for each Catholic living there. “It can’t continue,” Powers said. “We’ll have to come up with a new way of financing the conference.”

This will be an interim report, he stressed, predicting the process will take a couple of years.

“Last year the bishops voted to start a revision of the landmark document From Pain to Hope, that guided us in all those years of sexual abuse crisis,” said Powers. This, too, will be an interim report.

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