Nuncio offers vision of hope rooted in prayer and communion
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
BEAUPRÉ, Que. (CCN) — Canada’s apostolic nuncio on Sept. 15 offered Canada’s bishops a vision of hope for a missionary church rooted in prayer and communion.
Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, who arrived in Canada seven months ago, acknowledged that the church in Canada faces challenges after decades of secularization, as he addressed almost 90 bishops and eparchs gathered for the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Consider the consecrated life, the nuncio said, “which, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, belongs intimately to the life, holiness and mission of the church.” He highlighted the precipitous drop in the numbers of those in consecrated life, noting in the 1960s Canada boasted 60,000 religious.
“Today, there are little more than 15,000 and their average age is 80 years,” he said, noting that, providentially, Pope Francis will inaugurate the Year of Consecrated Life in November.
He added other sources of “anxiety and suffering” for the bishops: “the shortage of priestly vocations, the aging of the clergy, the weakening of the faith.”
Yet, despite the “alarming portrait” from a statistical and sociological perspective, the nuncio urged the 90 bishops and eparchs to see the church as the Holy Spirit sees her.
St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte saw a pathway for the church in the “miraculous catch of fish,” Bonazzi said.
“In her navigation on the sea of history, sometimes calm, sometimes agitated, sometimes even rough, the barque of the church has at its disposal an emergency kit to use in case of necessity,” he said. “In this emergency kit there is the invitation not to be afraid to put out into the deep again and again: Duc in altum.”
“There will be a miraculous catch of fish,” he stressed, reminding them of St. John Paul’s exhortation to put the “icon of the miraculous catch” before them, and “keep alive an ever-renewed hope, assuring us the Lord calls us to an inexhaustible experience of grace.”
The nuncio urged more attention to the Word and to the “promise of God.”
“Do we see a troublesome picture before us? Yes! Days, months and years without apparent results? This too! Does the church seem somehow declining? That also! But all of this is accompanied by the certainty — if we trust in the word of Christ and we cast out the nets — that a miraculous catch lies ahead, the birth or rebirth of a church more evangelical.”
Pope Francis provides an image of “a church which goes forth,” one of the themes of his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, in his moving “in the midst of people, without barriers, totally immersed, a living image of how he and we would like the church to be.”
But the nuncio said it is first necessary to “pray and then proclaim.”
“It is not possible to have a ‘church that goes forth’ unless there is a solid ‘church that enters,’ a church that is profoundly rooted in God, in the mystery of the Trinity and of redemption.”
Pope Francis follows this “hierarchy of values” of praying first, then proclaiming, the nuncio said.
“What Christ does within me is more important that what I do myself,” he said.
The nuncio also stressed the importance of collegiality and communion, not only among bishops but with bishops and their priests and lay faithful. He used the analogy of how our two eyes, with slightly different points of view, allow us to see a three-dimensional perspective.
“Of course, many times it is not easy to harmonize different views; it is tiring to bring together different visions,” the nuncio said. “However, by oneself, one does not go far.”
“Acting in unity is more important than acting, no matter how perfect it may be, in isolation: collaboration then is more important than working in solitude; the communion is more important than the action,” he said.
Bonazzi closed his talk with a prayer to Mary, star of the new evangelization, the prayer that closes Evangelii Gaudium.