Tuesday, October 20, 2009

London's Festival of Faith - CCCB Plenary's Opening Day, Farewell to Nuncio

Participants in Saturday's Family Day at Brescia College

The London Diocese's Festival of Faith began on Thursday evening, October 15 with an address by Bishop Luc Bouchard of St. Paul, Alberta on his experience of the 2008 Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church. This took place at the Elizabeth "Bessie" Labatt Centre at King's College, one of two Catholic institutes of higher learning at the University of Western Ontario.

His presentation was vivacious and gave all in attendance a thirst for the forthcoming Apostolic Exhortation Pope Benedict XVI will give to the Church Universal. As we headed away for the evening, the cold fall day bestowed on us the first snow fall sinc last spring.

The fall colours were in full regalia, despite the cooler than normal fall weather

Father William McGrattan, Rector of St. Peter's Seminary, who offered me hospitality during the Festival and invited me to preside and preach at the Friday morning seminary Community Mass

On Friday, October 16 the venues for the Festival were multiple: London's Catholic Education Centre and Brescia College (the women's Catholic college on the far side of the UWO campus) featured talks by Brother Guy Consolmagno, S.J. of the Vatican Observatory for high school teachers and students on Creation: The Scriptures and Science (showing how there need be no conflict between faith and reason) and for university students on Astronomy, God and the Search for Elegance.

The second of these addresses was beamed to St. Peter's Seminary where, in the afternoon, Father Thomas Rosica, CSB and I addressed priests, deacons, seminarians and lay ministers on a Hunger for God's Word and the Gospel of Luke and the Coming Liturgical Year respectively.

St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica, celebrating 125 years in 2010

Bishop Fabbro and his secretary Bernardine Ketlaars

After a wine and cheese reception at the seminary, many of us went off to St. Peter's Cathedral Basilica to hear Bishop Ronald Fabbro, CSB give a wonderful teaching on The Bible and Morality, particularly rooted in the covenant of God's love, followed by several choirs and the congregation participating in a hymn sing.

Bishop Daniels greets participants in the Festival after Mass

Saturday morning began with Mass presided by Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Daniels, who gave an inspired homily on that morning's text from Romans on the utter gratuity of God's love and salvation.

The children had a special youth track, which I was happy about as I had not prepared my talk on the Catholic sense of Scripture coming out of the synod for a youthful audience. The rest of the morning and the early afternoon gave an opportunity for participants to take in two of eight workshops (on the Dead Sea Scrolls, Praying with Scripture, Creation in Scripture pertaining to Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, the sacraments of initiation, etc).

I was pleased to meet briefly with Sr. Eileen Schuler, OSU of McMaster University, who gave presentations on the Dead Sea Scrolls and how they affect our reading of the Bible

After lunch Father Murray Watson gave a scintillating presentation on the Book of Revelation (which certainly merits publication) and the whole day came to a happy conclusion with a Liturgy of the Word that included my guiding a Lectio Divina on Elijah's weariness and God's care of him in 1 Kings 19:1-13.
Father Rosica of Salt and Light Television speaks on "satisfying the hunger in our hearts through Scripture"

The program was a great success and one hopes it will become a regular feature of diocesan life, even, perhaps, and annual event! Kudos to all who planned and carried off this successful venture!

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A soapstone carving will serve to remind Archbishop Luigi Ventura of his service in Canada

Yesteday was the busy opening session of the CCCB Plenary, marked by courtesies and formalities (welcoming ecumenical delegates, representatives of Catholic associations; approving minutes and giving a report on the follow-up of last year's plenary).

The Apostolic Nuncio, now preparing to depart for France, was given a standing ovation following his ninth and final address, thanked for his contribution with a memento from Canada and featured on a Salt and Light TV testimonial to his service in Canada since September 2001.

Archbishop Weisgerber, President of the CCCB and President-designate Bishop Pierre Morissette offer their best wishes to departing Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura

Address of His Excellency Archbishop Luigi Ventura, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, at the Plenary Assembly of the CCCB, October 19, 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,

First of all I would like to thank Archbishop Weisgerber with all my heart for the kind words he addressed to me on your behalf as well as the thoughtfulness and kindness that have inspired these words.

The Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops of the Latin and Eastern Rites, affords me the opportunity to extend my sincere and deep gratitude to the Presidents that I have known since 2001 :

Bishop Gerard Wiesner, who was ending his term as I arrived in Canada; Bishop Jacques Berthelet(2001-2003); Archbishop Brendan O’Brien (2003-2005); Archbishop André Gaumond (2005-2007); Archbishop V. James Weisgerber (2007-2009); and Bishop Pierre Morissette who begins his Presidency during these meetings.

I would like to thank each of you for having welcomed me and accompanied me during our common mission to serve the Lord and to proclaim the Kingdom of God in a spirit of charity and communion, that finds our meeting and unity in the Successor of Peter.

During the past eight years, I was able to discover the immense geographic territory of this country, as I visited 64 of the 70 ecclesiastical jurisdictions, especially on the occasion of episcopal ordinations and installations of new bishops. I came to appreciate your commitment and your zeal, as well as the commitment and zeal of your priests and religious men and women in your ecclesial communities. I saw first hand the commitment of a living Church that seeks to be present in the world with the weakness of its means and the strength that is granted to her by the presence of the Lord; a Church that sets its gaze on the transcendent to which we are called; a Church that does not seek favors or privileges, but desires to place itself at the service of and alongside each person, to share in friendship, in mutual listening, in solidarity along life’s journey, as it gives witness to the faith and intelligence of the reality that flows from the school of the Master.

Gatineau Archbishop Roger Ebacher is interviewed by reporters from Radio-Canada

In his homily on the occasion of taking possession of the Cathedral of St. John Lateran, shortly after his Installation as Bishop of Rome, Pope Benedict spoke these words:

“It is through witnesses that the Church was built - starting with Peter and Paul and the Twelve, to the point of including all who, filled with Christ, have rekindled down the centuries and will rekindle the flame of faith in a way that is ever new… But this chorus of witnesses is also endowed with a clearly defined structure: the successors of the Apostles, the Bishops, who are publicly responsible for ensuring that the network of these witnesses survives. The power and grace required for this service are conferred upon Bishops through the sacrament of Episcopal Ordination. In this network of witnesses, the Successor of Peter has a special task. It was Peter who, on the Apostles' behalf, made the first profession of faith: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16).

This is the task of all Peter's Successors: to be the guide in the profession of faith in Christ, Son of the living God. The Chair of Rome is above all the Seat of this belief” (May 7, 2005). This is the faith that unites us into the one body that forms the Church, in the past and in the present. As Paul in his letters to the Romans and the Corinthians, as Peter in the Gospel of John, so too are we called to repeat and proclaim: “Jesus is Lord” and “You have the words of life” (ibid.)

At the end of my mission in Canada, I feel the need to thank the Lord for having called me to work among you in the vineyard. If some positive results were achieved, I owe this to those who assisted me in the work of the Nunciature, and most especially to the confidence and collaboration that I experienced fully and cordially with you.

How could I not share your projects, your significant challenges, your moments of celebration and joy, as well as the moments of darkness and suffering? Most recently I shared with all of you, with your priests, with the whole Church, the tears and cry of suffering of Archbishop Anthony Mancini over the tragic situation of one of our brothers. I share Archbishop Mancini’s heartfelt words: “At this time when so many hearts have been broken, we need to know again or for the first time, the healing grace of God’s love. Such healing grace can only come from all of us sharing together our faith and convictions that, in spite of sin in all its forms, mercy is stronger than anger, forgiveness is more powerful than rejection and reconciliation is more transformative of spiritual devastation into new life possibilities.” (October 2, 2009)

Allow me also to repeat what I said at the mass for graduate theology students at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto two weeks ago: “The Church in Canada bears the wounds together with the victims of a tragic past, and has made et continues to make systematic efforts to prevent the repetition of such abuses and exploitation. Yet we can never underestimate the destructive power of sinfulness and evil apart the fabric of our community” (October 7, 2009).

When I stood before you for our first meeting on September 20, 2001, I quoted Voltaire’s classic description of this country: « quelques arpents de neige » (a few acres of snow). In fact, experience taught me that there are not a few acres, there are thousands of acres of snow! I was able to see this first hand during my visits to your dioceses. These different trips helped me to admire even more the zeal and extraordinary courage of the builders of this country and this Church; they will always inspire new generations a mari usque ad mare (according to the Canadian motto) and those who remember (according to the motto of Quebec).

Fortunately, snow and winter are not the final word. Each year I was surprised at the blossoming of life that heralded springtime; as soon as the snow disappeared, the first flowers pushed through a still frozen ground. I think that a similar dynamic is at work in the Church: if for some, a certain lethargy seems to affect a living religious witness in the challenges “ad intra et ad extra” (Benedict XVI, October 4, 2009), for those who can see clearly (Numbers 24:3), the springtime of the Spirit is always at work.

In the pathways emerging from World Youth Day 2002, I have been able to witness the beautiful signs of vitality in gatherings of young people and in the New Communities. At the Eucharistic Congress of Quebec, I saw a joyful people gathered around their Lord. I have also seen much love for the Church and for the Holy Father.

Your Conference has dealt with numerous, difficult dossiers on the doctrinal level as well as in the area of social concerns. We were particularly happy to see the important steps of reconciliation undertaken toward the Communities of the First Nations. The historic meeting that took place last April with the Holy Father remains very emblematic. The dossiers on Family, Marriage, the transmission of the faith to younger generations through appropriate education remain works in progress. Last May’s Letter from the Congregation for Catholic Education gives specific guidelines for this important area.

From its beginnings, the way of the Church through history has never been easy. Despite hostility, the Church has always known the living ideal of the light that comes from men and women, through their heroic witness of faith and charity. “When we read the saints' names we can see how often they have been - and continue to be - first and foremost simple people from whom shone - and shines - a radiant light that can lead others to Christ” (Benedict XVI, May 7, 2005).

We are not without our challenges even today, and we know that the challenges are not small. The principal challenge of our age seems to me to be anthropological, a hegemonic vision of the world that transforms the human person into a socially engineered object. A new anthropology requires cultural paradigms that are unattackable and indisputable. One offers : young Spanish philosopher «the opportunity to transform one’s interest and one’s desires into liberties and rights. However these are not more inherent to nature but they become gracious concessions of a power that legally consecrates them. » (T. M. de Prade).

In this regard, I would like to share with you the words of Pope Benedict XVI, with the usual clarity and profound intelligence of his teaching, as he addressed the Bishops of Brazil during their recent Ad Limina Visit on September 7, 2009 :

“Esteemed brothers, in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, some interpreted the openness not as a demand flowing from the missionary ardor of the Heart of Christ, but as a step toward secularization, perceiving there certain strong Christian values, such as equality, liberty, solidarity. They showed themselves ready to make concessions and discover areas of cooperation. We witnessed the interventions of some ecclesiastical officials in ethical debates, which responded to the expectations of public opinion, but which failed to speak of certain essential truths of the faith, such as sin, grace, theological life and the last things. Without realizing it, many ecclesial communities fell into self-secularization. Hoping to charm those who were not joining, they saw many of their members leave, cheated and disillusioned. When our contemporaries come to us, they want to see something that they do not see elsewhere, namely, joy and the hope that springs from the fact that we are with the Risen Lord.”

Our witness as Bishops, in communion with the Bishop of the Church of Rome, “who presides in charity”, according to the definition of St. Ignatius of Antioch in the Prologue to his letter to the Romans, is a pledge of obedience to Christ and his Word. At times we might be tempted to test the effectiveness of our vocation and our ministry with the measures of numbers and success. The example of St. Peter helps us; in a moment of crisis, when several disciples wanted to walk away from him, Peter said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; we believe and we know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68).

In closing, I would like to offer once again my sentiments of gratitude for the many expressions of fraternal affection and friendship that I have received from you over these past weeks.

Finally, I borrow the words of St. Augustine -- those same words spoken during the Angelus by Pope John Paul II at the conclusion of World Youth Day 2002 at Downsview Park in Toronto: “Each of us will return home. We have been happy together in the light we have shared. We have really enjoyed being together. We have really rejoiced (and I must also add we have shared sorrows). But as we leave one another, let us not leave Him" (In Io. ev. tr., 35,9) always “keeping the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).

Invited guests and ecumenical visitors at the CCCB Plenary

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