PONTIFICAL MASS — CCCB President Archbishop Paul-André Durocher is seen in procession to Notre Dame de Grace for the Pontifical Mass Sept. 14 marking the 350th anniversary of the first parish in North America. Behind him is Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi and Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec. (D. Gyapong photo)

CCCB plenary aims at being a source of renewal for bishops

By Deborah Gyapong

Canadian Catholic News

OTTAWA (CCN) — The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) annual plenary Sept. 15 - 19 became a time of renewal for the bishops, a goal of CCCB executive said the conference’s president.

CCCB president Gatineau Archbishop Paul-André Durocher said that in the time he has been on the executive the goal has been to move the annual gathering of Catholic bishops across Canada “away from a business model” toward a “time of ressourcement, of reflection, and personal renewal.”

“It really is intentional on part of executive, to make plenary sessions as inspirational and spirit-lifting as possible,” he said.

Two major liturgical celebrations bracketed the plenary, he said, heightening the spiritual significance of the gathering. The bishops participated in the Pontifical Mass Sept. 14 at Notre Dame de Grace Cathedral in Quebec City, marking the 350th anniversary of the first parish in North America outside the Spanish colonies.

“It was beautiful moment for the bishops of Canada to be gathered with Archbishop of Quebec City to celebrate this,” Durocher said. On Sept. 14, the bishops celebrated mass at Basilica of Saint-Anne-de-Beaupre, one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in Canada. Though prayer is always an important part of the plenary, those two celebrations enhanced the experience, he said.

The various panels, the times to reflect on issues, “the fact we were focused so clearly on the Joy of the Gospel (Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium) gave great thematic unity to the whole session,” he said.

“At any rate, many of the bishops expressed their satisfaction.

The plenary also enhanced the bishops’ awareness of the suffering in the Middle East and Ukraine, “made particularly present by the Ukrainian bishops, and the Maronite, Melkite and Syriac bishops,” he said. On Sept. 17, the bishops participated in a “beautiful Maronite liturgy that touched many of the participants. At Vespers on Wednesday night, Syriac Archbishop Yousif Habash sang the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, something that moved those present very much, he said.

“That proximity with the suffering in the world really touched our conference in a particular way,” he said.

As for conference business, the bishops gave a vote of confidence to a committee examining new ways to fund the work of the CCCB, Durocher said. The CCCB has traditionally been financed by a per capita levy based on the number of Catholics in a diocese.

Two problems have arisen in this approach, he said. One is less frequent and reliable census information upon which to base the assessment. The other is that in some areas, many people will identify as Catholic for the census, but do not participate in the life of the church, “so the per capita system is not the most equitable way of funding.”

“We are looking at integrating some measure that corresponds to regular revenues,” he said. Dioceses fund themselves by putting a levy on parishes according to their revenues, so the committee is examining this on a national level.

The CCCB and the bishops’ overseas development agency, The Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP), both had to rewrite their bylaws according to new national standards set for charities by the Canada Revenue Agency. The CCCB approved theirs recently, he said.

“Development and Peace took the occasion in reviewing its bylaws to focus and state more explicitly its Catholic identity and relationship with the CCCB,” the archbishop said.

The bylaws are a civil document, he said, but they are an articulation of the work that has been done in recent years with CCODP in renewing its policies in line with Pope Benedict XVI’s social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate.

The bishops also approved a strategy to promote palliative care in concert with the Catholic Organization for Life and Family and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Its purpose is “to educate the Catholic in the pew about what palliative care is” and to encourage them to become personally involved in pressing for the development of good palliative care and homecare strategies, he said. He said this positive effort is a way to counter the tendency to look to euthanasia as a solution for the problem of old age and disease.

While the bishops had hoped to meet with several solidarity partners from the developing world during the plenary, the bishops from several countries were not able to obtain visas in time. Only Port-au-Prince Archbishop Guire Poulard was able to “underline the remarkable work Development and Peace has done since the (2010) earthquake and he made a point of thanking them for the work they have done,” he said.

Durocher had been to Haiti two years ago as CCCB vice-president with then president Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith to visit CCODP projects there. “It was good to hear it from the archbishop,” he said. “He spoke about the importance of helping people to become self-sufficient agriculturally.”

CCODP is launching a new educational campaign in concert with the Holy See’s charitable federation Caritas Internationalis that Pope Francis has also promoted. It’s theme is “Sow much love: Small family farmers feed the world.”

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