Canadian Bishops Conclude Online Plenary Assembly Discussing Aboriginal Issues, Protection of Minors from Abuse and Government Laws on Euthanasia

CCCB Virtual Plenary Assembly Draws to a Close
Friday, September 25 2020
Ottawa – The final day of the virtual Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) concluded with an update for Bishops on key initiatives for the Conference.

Bishops received an update on the activities of the four working committees established to implement the recommendations accepted by the Bishops of Canada and the National Council of Development and Peace – Caritas Canada (CCODP) following an organizational review of the latter conducted by Deloitte. Each working committee has established a work plan and objectives to be realized by the end of the year. To date, the activities of the committees involving four Bishops and staff from the CCCB, as well as members of the CCODP National Council and staff, has been marked by collaboration, authenticity and a joint commitment to achieve a stronger alignment between the Bishops of Canada and CCODP.

Bishops likewise received the conclusions of the final report of the CCODP-CCCB joint international partnership review. The next step is to present the conclusions of the final report to the CCODP National Council at their meeting in November 2020 with any further communication to follow when opportune.

The meeting concluded with a discussion on the status of two pieces of federal legislation tabled in the House of Commons prior to the prorogation of Parliament, notably former Bill C-7 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) and former Bill C-8 An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy). The Bishops will continue to monitor the status of these former Bills following the recent resumption of Parliament.

**********Day 4 Summary

 The Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) reconvened the fourth day of the week-long virtual Plenary Assembly.

The Conference’s ongoing commitment to the national pastoral priority to renew, strengthen and reconcile the relationship between the Church in Canada and First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, was an important topic of discussion for the day’s gathering. Despite the delay in progress on some initiatives due to the health and safety restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Bishops continued to build upon a new momentum for open and ongoing dialogue, as well as pastoral outreach to Indigenous Peoples on many levels.

A portion of the agenda was likewise set aside to elect the leadership on the national and sectoral Commissions, Standing Committees, and the Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council.

********Day 3 Summary
On this third day of the virtual Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), the agenda was dedicated to the meetings of English Sector and French Sector Bishops allowing for discussion on liturgical, catechetical and other pastoral matters which are closely tied to language and culture.
The Most Reverend Raymond Poisson, Bishop of Saint-Jérôme and Mont-Laurier and CCCB Vice President, chaired the meeting of the French Sector Bishops while the Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg and CCCB President, chaired the meeting of the English Sector Bishops. Members of both Sectors received updates from the Chairs or members of various Commissions, committees, and Catholic organizations to which the CCCB is a member or is represented by a delegate.
********Day 2 Summary
The second day of the virtual Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). Bishops from across the country gathered to discuss the most essential ecclesial and administrative matters for the Conference.
The discussions for the day focused on two priority matters, namely family and life as well as responsible ministry. Recognizing a growing pastoral need to accompany and work with diocesan/eparchial life and family networks in response to the changing realities of Canadian society, the Bishops had a constructive discussion about possible initiatives, resources and opportunities for collaboration in this important area of Church life. This is a major pastoral priority of the Bishops and which includes the institution of holy matrimony, youth and elderly, a culture of life, and a civilization of love.
Following the unanimous adoption by the Bishops of Canada in 2018 of  the CCCB guidelines Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful for Healing, Reconciliation, and Transformationthe Bishops of Canada had agreed to establish a permanent Standing Committee for Responsible Ministry and the Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults to provide information, insights and recommendations to the CCCB regarding clergy sexual abuse, healing, and prevention. In 2020, the Standing Committee began its mandate to discern matters in support of the guidelines as well as to assist  the work of diocesan/eparchial advisory committees in fulfilling their responsibility to maintain safe pastoral environments and to promote healing for victims-survivors. During their 2020 Plenary Assembly, the Bishops discussed the work of the Standing Committee and its sub-committees. The Bishops continue to be very much engaged on this issue at various levels of the Church and are evermore committed to the protection of minors and vulnerable adults and the prevention of abuse.

A discussion of particular relevance to both Sectors focused on the adaptation of the 2016 document published by the Congregation for the Clergy entitled The Gift of the Priestly Vocation – Ratio Fundamentalis Insititutionis Sacerdotalis. The Ratio outlines the central elements and approach for the formation of future priests, with the understanding that Episcopal Conferences will make the necessary modifications to respond to the local context. Led by two ad hoc committees, the adaption of the document for Canada’s French and English seminaries continues to progress in a collaborative manner leading toward an eventual submission for recognition by the Congregation.
**********Day 1 Summary
Ottawa –The Most Reverend Richard Gagnon, Archbishop of Winnipeg and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), opened the first ever virtual Plenary Assembly of the Bishops of Canada earlier today, welcoming more than 80 Bishops logging in from dioceses and eparchies across Canada. The Bishops, who are meeting by videoconference in light of the existing health and safety restrictions regarding COVID-19, are following a streamlined agenda to focus on the most essential ecclesial and administrative matters for the Conference.
As is the custom of each annual gathering, the assembly began with a message to the Holy Father and the Bishops were likewise joined by the Most Reverend Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, who delivered greetings to all Bishops on behalf of Pope Francis.
The main topic of discussion for the day focused on the impacts of the Coronavirus in various regions across the country. Common to all of the interventions delivered was the recognition of the far-reaching effects of the pandemic on many aspects of Church life such as: suspending liturgical celebrations; caring for the elderly and vulnerable within parish communities; finding new ways to evangelize and gather in a digital environment; and addressing the financial challenges while mitigating the loss of diocesan/parish services to the communities served. As a result of some of the challenges faced, new forms of creativity have flourished. Many dioceses and parishes embraced a greater online presence to reach the faithful of their communities. This adaptation likewise prompted an examination of how the Church in Canada can benefit from technology but ensure it is not seen as a replacement for the life-giving community experience of the liturgy and the sacraments in person. The pandemic has also served as an opportunity to discuss the role of faith in society and how the Bishops of Canada, along with other religious leaders, can work together with local and provincial officials to show its importance as an essential component of society at all times, but especially in moments of crisis.
Text Releases from the CCCB on the Plenary Assembly