OTTAWA - The Holy Father may have moved to his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, but that has not stopped announcements of new episcopal appointments as the Catholic Church in Canada enjoys the dog days of summer.

On July 16, the Pope also accepted the resignation of Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie and appointed Fr. William Stang as apostolic administrator. Stang has been serving as vicar general and chancellor of Keewatin-Le Pas and confirmed that health reasons are the reason behind Lavoie's resignation.

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OTTAWA - Canada’s bishops have expressed dismay over a B.C. Supreme Court decision June 15 to strike down Criminal Code provisions against euthanasia and assisted suicide.

“I strongly urge the government to appeal this extremely flawed and dangerous ruling,” said Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller in a statement released the day of the decision.

The government has until July 16 to file a notice of appeal.

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OTTAWA - A call by an influential Saudi sheikh to destroy all churches on the Arabian Peninsula has led the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Human Rights Committee to voice its concern to the government of Saudi Arabia.

In a May 30 letter to Saudi Ambassador Osamah Al Sanosi Ahmad, Bishop François Lapierre, chairman of the CCCB’s Human Rights Committee, referred to a March 12 statement by Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, who said: “only one religion,” Islam, “should exist in the Arabian Peninsula” and thus “it is necessary to destroy all churches in the region.”

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OTTAWA - A looming humanitarian crisis in West Africa’s drought-ravaged Sahel region has prompted Canada’s Catholic bishops to join forces with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in an appeal for donations.

D&P executive director Michael Casey called the growing food shortages “a major crisis,” but one that has received little to no media attention.  

“The needs are extensive and will only increase,” he said.

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Rarely is St. Thomas Aquinas a hot topic. The 13th century Angelic Doctor has been out of the news for some time.

But when Canada’s bishops recently issued a pastoral letter to remind “men and women of good will” about the centrality of conscience to the very idea of freedom, they were channelling St. Thomas via two of the Second Vatican Council’s most important declarations — Gaudium et Spes and Dignitatis Humanae.

Issued on May 14, the bishops Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religion defends the right of religious freedom and expression in the public square while affirming the right of conscience and conscientious objection. It urges believers to never compromise their faith “even if they must suffer for it.”

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Canada’s bishops have called on Catholics to become courageous defenders of freedom of conscience and religion.  They call these rights inalienable, universal and precious, and urge Canadians to profess and safeguard them with the steadfast fidelity of Thomas More.

Their message needs to be heard and heeded.

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OTTAWA - Canada's Catholic bishops have published a defense of freedom of conscience and religious freedom as these universal rights come under increasing threat around the world.

The Catholic community and other religious groups are "experiencing a worrisome erosion" of these freedoms, said Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Archbishop Richard Smith in an open letter introducing the "Pastoral Letter on Freedom of Conscience and Religious freedom" published May 14 at www.cccb.ca.

(Right-click and save-as to download the letter as a PDF)

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OTTAWA - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has launched a new “Life and Family” page at the cccb.ca web site that promotes a multi-year initiative for rebuilding a culture of life and family and promoting the new evangelization.

The information is meant as a resource for dioceses, lay movements and associations to help them participate in the initiative, which has been underway since January.

The vision proposes strengthening the family as “the domestic church” and making it a vehicle for evangelizing not only its members but the wider society.

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Canada’s Catholic bishops are pulling out of a national interfaith dialogue they helped establish.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has informed the Canadian Council of Churches it will not participate in an ongoing interfaith conversation with representatives from major Christian churches and non-Christian faith bodies.

The CCC’s interfaith conversation began as the Interfaith Partnership in the run-up to the 2010 interfaith leaders’ summit in Winnipeg. That body was established to engage with world political leaders coming to Canada for the G8/G20 summit. Parallel faith leaders’ summits have been a feature of G8 meetings since 2005.

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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Bishop J. Faber MacDonald, who served a number of Maritime dioceses over the years, passed away at the age of 80 in Charlottetown.

A Prince Edward Island native, Bishop MacDonald was ordained a priest for the diocese of Charlottetown at the age of 31. On Jan. 11, 1980, just nine days before his birthday, Pope John Paul II appoint the priest from P.E.I. bishop of the diocese of Grand Falls, Nfld. A little more than two months later he was ordained at St. Dunstan's Basilica in his home province.

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OTTAWA - Archbishop Richard Smith is inviting Catholics to open their hearts to those in need by contributing generously to this year’s Share Lent campaign.

The annual fundraising campaign kicks off Feb. 22 and runs through April 7. It is the major fundraiser for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian bishops’ development agency, accounting for about 30 per cent of its annual budget.

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OTTAWA - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has launched a new webpage that traces the relationship of the Catholic Church in Canada and its First Nations’ peoples.

The site sketches the history of relations with indigenous peoples, many of whom became part of the Church and “gave much to it.” It cites Joseph Chiwatenhwa, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha and “Grand Chief Henri Membertou, who became the first aboriginal leader to be baptized by the French, as a sign of alliance and good faith in 1610.”

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Canadian religious leaders and interfaith coalitions banded together before the Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 United Nations climate change talks in Durban, South Africa, to urge Ottawa to take substantial steps toward a new international agreement to replace the expiring Kyoto Protocols. Almost alone among Canada’s major church and faith bodies, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops refused to sign the “Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change.”

The Congregation of St. Joseph signed, along with many other Catholic religious orders and a broad swath of Canada’s Christian bodies. Major Muslim, Hindu and interfaith coalitions also signed onto the two-page statement.

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OTTAWA - The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) will proceed with a pastoral plan for life and family that will launch nationally in 2013 after a preparatory year in the dioceses.

In a mid-December letter to his brother bishops, CCCB President Archbishop Richard Smith confirmed the CCCB’s Permanent Council has given the proposed plan a green light after reviewing the practical aspects of the decisions made at the bishops’ annual plenary meeting in October.

“I am happy to confirm that we will proceed, as we had all agreed, with the elements of the pastoral plan for 2013 and for a preparatory year during 2012,” Smith wrote.

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OTTAWA - As the second anniversary of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake approaches, a Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops delegation is visiting the country on a solidarity mission Dec. 14-21.

The Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake killed more than 220,000 people, seriously injured more than 300,000 and devastated large sections of Port-au-Prince, Jacmel, Léogâne and other areas. Three million people were left homeless or otherwise seriously affected.

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