Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN) - The importance of the New Evangelization and the deep sense of communion between the Church in Canada and the Holy See are two themes that emerged from the recent visit to Rome by a delegation of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
"It is fair to say concern for the new evangelization pervades everything," said CCCB president Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, who spent more than two weeks in Rome in November, accompanied by the new CCCB vice-president Gatineau Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher and CCCB General Secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers.
The highlight was the visit with the Holy Father, he said. "We really felt ourselves blessed, because of the obvious demands on his time."
They presented the Pope with a specially bound edition of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, a CCCB publication about the new St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, and a Salt + Light TV documentary about the seminary.
Smith said they found in him "an immediate warm welcome and an incredibly attentive listener."
"With everything going on in his life, you still feel like you're the only person in the world when you are speaking with him," he said, noting he had experienced this in previous meetings with Pope Benedict as well.
The Holy Father really seemed to appreciate the new missal and "took his time leafing through it with obvious interest," Smith said.
"It was a great blessing and privilege to be able to participate in what was an historic moment for Canada," he said.
The events surrounding the new missal fell into the new evangelization theme. "Because the liturgy is the heart of our life, really in its essence, it is evangelization par excellence, the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist as really at the heart of the New Evangelization," Smith said.
The delegation also met with Archbishop Fisichella, the prefect of the new Council for the Promoting New Evangelization, a dicastery set up a little over a year ago. "That gave us a chance to see what they're doing and to say just that, yes, this requires the urgency, it requires a specific council," he said.
When meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Family the CCCB delegation presented parts of the new national plan for life and family, "to let them know where we're going to be moving in the country."
This Canadian initiative was "framed within the new evangelization, to help our people embrace anew gift of life, and the call to be speaking out in celebration of it and in defence of it," he said.
The General Secretary arranged 34 meetings with various dicasteries or groups, including meetings with Cardinal Levada at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Ouellet at the Congregation for Bishops.
"We really wanted to make the best use of our time possible," Smith said, noting the general secretary had lined up 34 different meetings and gatherings. "But we really wanted to do that, to see everyone, to bring the various dicasteries up to date on what's happening in Canada, and also to hear from them their initiatives and their visions, finding ways to collaborate with one another and support one another."
"This is an annual event, and we do this as a conference to deepen our collaboration with the Holy See," Smith said in an interview from Edmonton. "We function as a communion, as a college. It's great to have opportunities to put that collegial reality into practice and sit down and chat with people."
He experienced a "deep sense of encouragement and enthusiasm because of the warm welcome that was given to us and the genuine experience of collegiality among bishops," he said.
Though the discussions remain confidential and specific to the congregation or group, Smith said the doors were "open wide," and Canadian concerns were listened to attentively.
"Not every episcopal conference does this, I understand," he said, noting that the United States conference does visits like this as do a few others. These annual visits by the CCCB have been taking place for a number of years now.
"This particular year was the first visit for the new team," Smith said, noting he had been twice before as vice president.
The bishops did not have much time to relax and spend time apart visiting friends or taking in the sights.
"Every day we would need to debrief from the meetings of the day and to prepare ourselves for the next meeting," he said. They managed to head out to some good restaurants not far from where they were staying, but most of their time was taken up with meetings or looking after correspondence from their dioceses or the CCCB office.
Photo credit: Servizio Fotografico, L’Osservatore Romano