Left: Newly-elected CCCB President Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jerome, QC addresses his brother bishops, invites all to unity
Right: Military Ordinary Bishop Theriault shows off new bilingual prayer book (Armour of Faith/Armure de foi) for Canada's military personnel
Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau presides at Vespers, assisted by National Liturgy Office Director Father William Burke
Deacon Gerald LeBlanc, whom I ordained for the Halifax Arch-diocese, is now Secretary for the Atlantic Episcopal Assembly
Regina Archbishop Daniel Bohan, who is also a regular blogger (archbishopdanielsblog.blogspot.com), and Edmonton Eparch David Motiuk
Left to right: Father Donald Bolen (V.G. of the Regina Archdiocese), Trois-Rivieres Bishop Martin Veillette, St-Hyacinthe Bishop Francois Lapierre and Laval University Professor Reverend Gilles Routhier participate in a panel discussion on Anglican-Roman Catholic relations
Recently appointed Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatiere Bishop Yvon-Joseph Moreau, o.c.s.o. thanks the bishops for their warm welcome
Montreal Auxiliary Bishop Lionel Gendron, p.s.s. and Valleyfield Bishop Luc Cyr
Bishops converse between business sessions at the CCCB Plenary
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SYNOD OF AFRICA CONCLUDES AT ST. PETER'S VATICAN BASILICA
Pope Benedict XVI and the Synod Fathers concelebrated the closing liturgy for the Second African Synod this morning at the Vatican.
As has been the custom, this Synod publishes a Message to the Church reflecting on the experience of coming together in prayer and dialogue, in anticipation of the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. The first draft, entitled "The blessings of God are still abundant", is hopeful. Here are excerpts from the introduction and beginning sections:
1. It was a special gift of grace and like a last will and testament to Africa when the Servant of God Pope John Paul II, towards the end of his life, on November 13th, 2004, announced his intention to convoke a Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops.
This same intention was confirmed by his successor, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, on the 22nd of June, 2005, in one of the first major decisions of his pontificate. As we gather here for this Synod, from all countries of Africa and Madagascar and the adjacent Islands, with brother bishops and colleagues from all continents, with and under the Head of the Episcopal College, with the participation of some fraternal delegates from other Christian traditions, we thank God for this providential opportunity to celebrate the blessings of the Lord on our continent, to assess our stewardship as Pastors of God’s flock, and to seek fresh inspiration and encouragement for the tasks and challenges that lie ahead.
It is now fifteen years since the First Assembly in 1994. The teachings and directives of the Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa have not ceased to be a valid guide for our pastoral efforts. In this follow-up assembly, however, the Synod has been able to concentrate on a theme of the greatest urgency for Africa: our service to reconciliation, justice and peace in a continent that is very much in dire need of these graces and virtues.
2. We started our work here with an inaugural celebration of the Holy Eucharist, presided over by His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, invoking the Holy Spirit to "lead us into all truth" (Jn 16:13). On that occasion, the Pope reminded us that the Synod is not primarily a study session. Rather, it is God’s initiative, calling us to listen: listen to God, to one another and to the world around us, in an atmosphere of prayer and reflection.
3. As we prepare to disperse to our various places of assignment, with renewed commitment and courage, we wish to address this message to the whole Church, Family of God, especially to the Church in Africa: to our brother bishops on whose behalf we are here; to the priests, deacons, religious and all the lay faithful, and to all whose hearts God may open to listen to our words.
PART I: LOOKING AT AFRICA TODAY
4. We live in a world full of contradictions and deep crisis. Science and technology are making giant strides in all aspects of life, equipping humanity with all that it takes to make our planet a beautiful place for us all. Yet tragic situations of refugees, abject poverty, disease and hunger are still killing thousands on a daily basis.
5. In all this, Africa is the most hit. Rich in human and natural resources, many of our people are still left to wallow in poverty and misery, wars and conflicts, crisis and chaos. These are very rarely caused by natural disasters. They are largely due to human decisions and activities by people who have no regard for the common good and this often through a tragic complicity and criminal conspiracy of local leaders and foreign interests.
6. But Africa must not despair. The blessings of God are still abundant, waiting to be prudently and justly employed for the good of her children. Where the conditions are right, her children have proved that they can reach, and have indeed reached, the height of human endeavours and competence. There is much good news in many parts of Africa. But the modern media often tend to emphasize bad news and thus seem to focus more on our woes and defects than on the positive efforts that we are making. Nations have emerged from long years of war and are moving gradually along the path of peace and prosperity. Good governance is making appreciable positive impact in some African nations, challenging others to review past and present bad habits. Signals abound of many initiatives seeking to bring effective solutions to our problems. This Synod, precisely by its theme, hopes to be part of such positive initiatives. We call on all and sundry to join hands to address the challenges of Reconciliation, Justice and Peace in Africa. Many are suffering and dying: there is no time to waste.
PART II: IN THE LIGHT OF FAITH
7. Our office as bishops obliges us to consider everything in the light of faith. Soon after the publication of EIA, the bishops of Africa, through the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), published a pastoral letter, with the title: "Christ our Peace" (cf. Final Document of the Plenary Assembly of SECAM at Rocca di Papa, 1-8 October 2000, published in Accra, 2001). During this assembly, we have frequently reminded ourselves that the initiative for all reconciliation and peace comes from God. As the Apostle Paul declares: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself." This is done by his gratuitous gift of pardon without condition, "not counting their trespasses against them" and thus introducing us to his peace. (cf. 2 Cor 5:17-20) As for justice, this too is God’s doing, through his justifying grace in Christ.
8. In the same passage, St. Paul goes on to say that God is "entrusting to us the message of reconciliation", and has indeed appointed us "ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us". This is the exalted mandate that we have received from our merciful and compassionate God. The Church in Africa, both as family of God and as individual faithful has the duty to be instruments of peace and reconciliation, after the heart of Christ, who is our peace and reconciliation. And it shall be able to do this to the extent that she is herself reconciled to God. Her strategies for reconciliation, justice and peace in society must go beyond and deeper than how the world handles these matters. Like St. Paul, the Synod calls on all the people of Africa: "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" ( 2 Cor 5:20).
In other words, we call on all to allow themselves to be reconciled to God. It is this that opens the way to genuine reconciliation among persons. It is this that can break the vicious circle of offence, revenge and counter attack. In all this, the virtue of pardon is crucial, even before any admission of guilt. Those who say that pardon does not work should try revenge and see. True pardon promotes the justice of repentance and reparation, leading to a peace that goes to the roots of conflict, making friends, brothers and sisters out of former victims and enemies. Since it is God who makes this kind of reconciliation possible, we must give adequate place for prayer and the sacraments in this ministry, especially the Sacrament of Penance.
Let us continue to keep Africa in our thoughts and prayers.
CARDINAL TURKSON TO "JUSTICE AND PEACE"
Yesterday, the last working day of the Synod, the Holy Father named Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Archbishop of Cape Coast, Ghana to succeed Cardinal Renato Raffale Martino as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
A scripture scholar who received his doctorate at Rome's Pontifical Biblical Institute, His Eminence is a charming man who speaks an elegant Italian. We worked together last year on media relations at the Synod on the Word of God.