CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith, who spent more than two weeks in Rome in November, accompanied by CCCB vice-president Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher with Pope Benedict XVI. Servizio Fotografico, L’Osservatore Romano

New evangelization top concern for Canadian bishops

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  • December 1, 2011

OTTAWA - The importance of the new evangelization and the deep sense of communion between the Church in Canada and the Holy See are two themes that emerged from a recent visit to Rome by a delegation of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“It is fair to say concern for the new evangelization pervades everything,” said CCCB president Archbishop Richard Smith, who spent more than two weeks in Rome in November, accompanied by CCCB vice-president Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher and CCCB General Secretary Msgr. Patrick Powers.

The highlight was the visit with the Holy Father, he said. 

“We really felt ourselves blessed, because of the obvious demands on his time,” said Smith, archbishop of Edmonton.

The Canadian delegation presented the Pope with a specially bound edition of the new English translation of the Roman Missal, a CCCB publication about the new St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton and a Salt + Light TV documentary about the seminary.

Smith said they found in the Pope “an immediate warm welcome and an incredibly attentive listener.”

“With everything going on in his life, you still feel like you’re the only person in the world when you are speaking with him,” Smith said, noting he had experienced this in previous meetings with Pope Benedict as well.

The Holy Father really seemed to appreciate the new Missal and “took his time leafing through it with obvious interest,” Smith said.

“It was a great blessing and privilege to be able to participate in what was an historic moment for Canada,” he said.

The events surrounding the new Missal fell into the new evangelization theme. 

“Because the liturgy is the heart of our life, really in its essence, it is evangelization par excellence, the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist is really at the heart of the new evangelization,” Smith said.

The delegation also met with Archbishop Salvatore Fisichella, the prefect of the new Council for the Promoting New Evangelization, a dicastery set up a little over a year ago. 

“That gave us a chance to see what they’re doing and to say just that, yes, this requires the urgency, it requires a specific council,” Smith said.

When meeting with the Pontifical Council for the Family the CCCB delegation presented parts of the new national plan for life and family, “to let them know where we’re going to be moving in the country.”

This Canadian initiative was “framed within the new evangelization, to help our people embrace a new gift of life, and the call to be speaking out in celebration of it and in defence of it,” he said.

Powers arranged 34 meetings with various dicasteries or groups, including meetings with Cardinal William Levada at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and Cardinal Marc Ouellet at the Congregation for Bishops. It was “to bring the various dicasteries up to date on what’s happening in Canada, and also to hear from them their initiatives and their visions, finding ways to collaborate with one another and support one another,” said Smith.

Though the discussions remain confidential and specific to the congregation or group, Smith said the doors were “open wide” and Canadian concerns were listened to attentively.

“Not every episcopal conference does this, I understand,” he said, noting that the United States conference does visits like this as do a few others.

These annual visits by the CCCB have been taking place for a number of years now.

“This particular year was the first visit for the new team,” Smith said, noting he had been twice before as vice president.

The bishops did not have much time to relax and spend time apart visiting friends or taking in the sights.

“Every day we would need to debrief from the meetings of the day and to prepare ourselves for the next meeting,” he said.

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