Canada, Latin America share similar problems

  • June 17, 2007
{mosimage}OTTAWA - A lack of deep evangelization lies at the root of problems shared by the churches in Canada and Latin America.
That’s the conclusion of a Canadian bishop who attended the May 13-31 Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAM) in Brazil.

“Many of the problems which we discussed there have certain similarities to what is going on in Canada in the fact that we have never really properly evangelized our people,” said Grand Falls Bishop Martin Currie.

He noted that the Latin American churches are losing many Catholics to aggressive Pentecostal-type sects, but in Canada, the lack of evangelization shows in the small proportion of those who actually practise their faith. He estimated that in English Canada only 20 per cent of Catholics attend church on a regular basis. In Quebec, the figure is half that.

Currie represented the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops at the conference, along with CCCB Vice President Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg. Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec, was also a delegate.

Currie spent five years as a missionary in Peru from 1975 to 1980 and is one of the bishops’ conference’s representatives on the board of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the bishops’ overseas development agency.

{sidebar id=1}Though Catholics may be baptized and confirmed, more is needed to make adults familiar with Scripture, Currie said. Somehow ways needs to be found on how to better initiate them into the faith.

Other topics discussed at CELAM, such as overlapping migrations — from Latin America into the United States and Canada and from rural areas to the big cities — also has a parallel in Canada, Currie said, pointing out that the United States alone is home now to 35 million Latinos. Some of the migrants are ending up in Canada, too, contributing to growing multicultural parishes in Canada’s big cities. Currie also sees rural areas in Canada being depleted as more people move from the country into the cities. This poses problems in both rural and urban dioceses.

“How do we serve these people, how do we keep them connected and how do we keep them as a part of our faith communities?” he asked. “How do we proclaim the Gospel in our culture and how do we deal with these huge cities and the multicultural aspect? These are challenging questions for our Canadian churches as well.”

Currie said the bishops at CELAM are working on a document coming out of the meeting that will “steer the future” and “plan a mission for the evangelization of the whole continent.” He said Canada needs to do the same.

The conference discussed climate change, the melting of glaciers in the Andes and the threat to the rainforest, topics that also resonated in Canada.

The plight of rich and poor, especially that of indigenous peoples occupied much of the CELAM discussion, especially the push for more recognition of indigenous rights and what that will mean in the long run, Currie said.

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