Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Canadian Bishops Meeting in Cornwall contd.

Following reports to the plenary assembly by the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal council and the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace the bishops were given a presentation by Dr. Richard R. Gaillardetz on The Impact of Vatican Council II on the Priesthood and its Reality Today.

Professor Gaillardetz is on staff at the University of Toledo, Ohio where he holds a Chair in Catholic Studies. He is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Theological Society of America, he holds a mandatum from Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza to teach at the University of St. Thomas School of Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary, Houston, Texas according to the requirements of Ex Corde Ecclesia assuring faithfulness to the teaching of the Church. He and his wife Diana are the parents of four boys.

One of the fruits of the Second Vatican council in regards to the spirituality of the life of a priest is that it brought this understanding of the priest beyond a spirituality which was separated from pastoral care and ministry into a spirituality which put the understanding of the priesthood in the context of the daily life of the Church. The priest acts in the "person of Christ, the Head of the Church" in the role of teaching, sanctifying and leading the People of God, the Church. All of this is at the service of the baptized people so that they may develop their gifts and fulfill their mission, given in their baptism, to be witnesses in their world to the Good News of Jesus.

The focus of understanding the priesthood is "relationship." It flows from our understanding of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three persons who are in the relationship of communion. Our baptism is the beginning of a new relationship with God. The priesthood is the consecration to a new relationship with Christ which is carried out in the Church.

These are a couple of the ideas that Dr. Gaillardetz shared with us in his first talk. He was back with us the next morning to continue with the topic "Reflections on the Relationship between the Ministerial Priesthood and the Priesthood of the Baptized." In the workshop that was held for smaller groups, there was agreement that even though we are 40 years or so into the implementation of the teachings of Vatican II, there are large numbers of the Catholic Faithful who have little understanding of what it means that by their baptism they share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. This is seen by diminished attendance at Sunday Mass, the influence of individualism in our society, the emphasis on consumerism which makes all things commodities, even religious faith and teaching. The baptized exercise their priesthood in the world in which they live, being witnesses of God's love and God's salvation. Jesus has offered his life out of love for us, we now offer ourselves and our world to God in response to that love. The priesthood of the Baptized and the Ordained or Ministerial Priesthood are both something which pertains not only to Sunday worship but also beyond that to the way we live our life. Knowing the sacrificial love which Jesus has for us, our only response is to live lives of sacrificial love ourselves.

Needless to say, Dr. Gaillardetz's talks were well received and appreciated by the bishops and were a very helpful occasion to deepen our understanding of the beauty of our Catholic Faith.

The Plenary meetings were also an occasion to renew some long standing friendships. This is Fr. Doug MacNeil of Saint John, NB. Fr. Doug was attending the Plenary as an observer representing the National Federation of Prebyteral Councils. Fr. Doug and I go back a long way with connections to St. Thomas University and the Miramichi in New Brusnwick.

Lunch time offered the opportunities to have some smaller meetings. One of these was a meeting of the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews and Interfaith Dialogue, of which I am a member. We took this occasion to get together with the Observers from the different Christian Church communities who were present. Seated from left to right: Mgr Jean-Pierre Blais, Bishop of Baie-Comeau, Mgr Martin Veillette, Bishop of Trois-Rivières, Chairman, Rev. Paul Johnson, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; Bishop John Boissoneau, Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto and Jonas Abromaitis, secretary of the commission. Standing: Rev. Karen Hamilton, Canadian Council of Churches, Rev. Bruce Clemeger, Evangelical Fellowship of Canada; The Ven. Dr. Michael Pollesel, General Secretary, The Anglican Church of Canada; and Rev. Stephen Kendall, The Presbyterian Church in Canada. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Anglican primate of Canada was having lunch with Archbishop Weisgerber, President of the CCCB.

Archbishop Hiltz spoke to the Bishops later, speaking of the things which our two Churches can celebrate which have happened over the years, particularly the number of barriers that have been lowered, the richness of theological statements which have been made in common, all of which is sufficient to look to further and continual advancement. He also emphasized the important document "Growing Together in Unity and Mission, an agreed Statement tby the International Anglican – Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission: Building on 40 years of Anglican – Roman Catholic Dialogue, which was issued in 2006. Archbishop Hiltz in speaking of the importance of personal involvement in this dialogue recalled the statement of Pope John Paul II that affective communion will lead to effective communion. Archbishop Hiltz was warmly welcomed by the assembled Bishops.

In these meetings there is the usual business matters which take place: elections of the President who for the next term will be Mgr Pierre Morissette, Bishop of Baie-Comeau and Vice President, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton. Financial statements are presented. Then there are reports from the Marriage Tribunal which deals with annulment applications, in particular the Appeal Tribunal which deals with cases from across the country. Cardinal Marc Ouellet spoke on the Synod of Bishops held last year on The Word of God.

Following these reports the Commission on Doctrone spoke about Catholic Identity in the Public Sphere. This is an important topic for the Church for there are many voices in our society that cry out that there is no place for religion in the public sphere. Yet Christians are called to be witnesses to the Good News of Jesus to the world, indeed it is the mission conferred upon each of us by our Baptism. So we broke up into small groups to discuss how we can bring this about in our dioceses and our parishes.
In the evening, Fr. Tom Rosica of the Catholic Television Network "Salt and Light" gave some pastoral reflections on blogs and websites, their pros and cons. This also was a timely topic and well presented.

At lunch on Wednesday the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity, Religious Relations with the Jews and Interfaith Dialogue got together again for a business meeting and also to welcome some special guests to the Plenary who would speak later on in the afternoon on the subject of Roman Catholic & Anglican dialogue. On the left is Mgr Francois Lapierre, P.M.E., Bishop of St. Hyacynthe and Co-Chair of the Anglican – Catholic theological dialogue (ARC) in Canada and also a member of the Canadian Anglican – Catholic Bishops’ dialogue; Jonas Abromaitis, Secretary of the Commission; Fr. Gilles Routhier, from Laval UniversityRev. Gilles Routhier, from Laval University, a member of the ARC dialogue; Bishop Martin Veillette, Bishop of Trois-Rivières and Chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity; Msgr Don Bolen of the Archdiocese of Regina, also a member of the ARC dialogue; Mgr Jean-Pierre Blais, Bishop of Baie-Comeau, Bishop John Boissoneau and, this time, also myself, all three, members of the Commission.

The panel discussed different aspects of the dialogue which is going on between the Anglican Church and the Roman Catholic Church. In their discussions, the Bishops reaffirmed their commitment to Anglican- Catholic dialogue. Together, Anglicans and Roman Catholics comprised about 50% of the population of Canada.

The Bishops then end their working day by coming together and celebrating the Eucharist, for them as for all of us, the source and summit of our life as disciples of Jesus.



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