Alicia Ambrosio reports on the opening session of the CCCB Plenary Assembly and Archbishop Weisgerber's opening address.
For Text below:
The Canadian Church has had an "annus horribilis" but the death and resurrection of Christ is the hope that gets the Bishops through it all, the head of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said.
Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, outgoing president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the statement Monday October 19 in his opening address at the CCCB's annual plenary assembly.
Two scandals have hit the Church in Canada in the last year. First in April and May allegations surfaced that Development and Peace, the international development organization of the Canadian Church and a member of Caritas Internationalis, was supporting access to abortion in Latin America. The next hit came in late September when the Bishop of Antigonish, Raymond Lahey, abruptly stepped down after having been investigated and charged with possession and importation of child pornography.
In his address to the plenary assembly Archbishop Weisgerber said it would be inappropriate speak about the case itself because it is an ongoing police investigation. He did say it was a painful situation for Canadian Bishops because it involved a friend and colleague.
He went on to say "These are serious issues that merit careful and thorough investigation by the proper authorities, but we all need to remember that our society believes in the presumption of a person's innocence unless judged otherwise by a court of law" He said the case was a reminder of the importance of the bishops' pastoral priority to "protect and safeguard all members of the human family and the community of faith from serious violations of human dignity"
The severity of the charges also called the bishops to take seriously the Year for Priests, because having healthy deacons and priests is essential for Bishops, Archbishop Weisgerber said, and called on "the spirit of Vatican II to assist us in our assembly" and lead to a renewed understanding of the presbytierate.
Touching on the issue of Development and Peace the Archbishop said the events of the past year involving the development organization were an opportunity to renew, remandate and revision the organization. The leadership of Developoment and Peace had shown they were willing to respond to the concerns raised over the past year and had begun to reevaluate it's partnerships with other organizations around the world.
Focusing on the plenary session itself, Archbishop Weisgerber said there would be discussions during the week about "more recent technological developments in the media," specifically blogs and websites as well as social networking media. To that end he announced the CCCB had instituted a new standing committee on Communications made up of Bishop Pierre Morrisette, Vice-President of the CCCB and Bishop of Baie-Comeau, Archbishop Anthony Mancini of Halifax, Bishop Jean-Louis Plouffe of Sault Ste. Marie, Fr. Thomas Rosica, a Basilian priest and CEO of Salt+Light Television, Niquette Delage of Communications et Societe of Montreal, and Barry McLoughlin, president and co-founder of McLoughlin media in Ottawa.
A standing committe on Government Relations was also announced, made up of the Archibshop Weisgerber, Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal, and Archbishop Thomas Collins of Toronto as well as two former members of parliament from opposite sides of the parlimentary floor: Benoit Bouchard, a former Progressive Conservative M.P. and Dennis Mills, a former Liberal M.P.
Archbishop Weisgerber closed his talk telling his brother bishops, " 'Do not be alarmed; do not be afraid; Jesus is risen' This is the message from the empty tomb. This is the reason why the First Letter of Peter reminds us that no matter the challenge or the question, we are to respond respectuflly but no to be intimidated"
The Pleanary Assembly was due to run from October 19 to October 23.