Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi addresses Canada’s bishops at the annual plenary. Photo by Deborah Gyapong

Big plans to mark 50 years of diplomacy

  • October 5, 2019

CORNWALL,ONT. -- Celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the Holy See will include a visit from a high-ranking Vatican official sometime in the coming year, the apostolic nuncio told Canada’s bishops Sept. 23.

“This anniversary (on Oct. 15) offers an opportunity to review and deepen the relationship between the Holy See and Canada, but also to consider relations between Canada and the Catholic Church,” Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi told more than 80 bishops and eparchs gathered in Cornwall for the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Sept. 23-27. 

“In fact, between civil society and the religious community there are functions specific to each one, characterized by activities and skills that are distinct but not distant.

“A mature and independent collaboration between the Church and State in search of the common good of society remains a constant challenge,” the nuncio said.

Within the next year, there are plans to mark the 50th anniversary with “significant celebrations” including a visit to Canada of “a person of high authority” within the Vatican Secretariat of State, he said. The Holy See and Canada officially announced diplomatic relations on Oct. 15, 1969, 10 months after then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had met with Pope Paul VI.

The nuncio said he met with Pope Francis in Rome on Aug. 29 and the Pope invited him to continue serving in Canada. Bonazzi arrived in Canada in March 2014.

“I welcomed with joy this decision, which manifested to me with clarity, the will of God,” the nuncio said. “I wish also to confess that never before as in these days, am I sensing that to be apostolic nuncio in Canada is a mission that far exceeds my abilities. I must therefore, like Pope Francis, say to each of you: please, do not forget to pray for me.”

The nuncio told the bishops Pope Francis’ reform of the Roman Curia is intended to transform Church structures to better suit the Church’s missionary purpose of evangelization.

“Of course, among the guiding principles we note subsidiarity and decentralization, with greater responsibilities assigned to individual bishops, as well as conferences of bishops,” the nuncio said. “How this will impart the work of the conference remains to be seen, but I am confident that this assembly — you, the bishops of Canada, praying, thinking and acting together — will be capable of taking up the added responsibilities and competencies that will be entrusted to you in the spirit of proclaiming the Gospel.”

In his meeting with the Pope at the end of August, the nuncio asked him if he had a special word for Canada’s bishops attending the annual plenary.  

The message of the Pope was this: “Be pastors, pastors with joy,” the nuncio said.

“Is it possible to be ‘pastors with joy’ when every day we are called to cope with difficulties that tire us out and that do not have simple solutions? Yes, it is possible,” Bonazzi said. “First and foremost because each one of us can say in serene confidence that he has been called by the Good Pastor: ‘It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will last’ (John 15:16).”

The nuncio said he was reminded of what Pope Benedict XVI said in the book-length interview Light of the World in which he felt the burden of the papacy weighing on him. In a dialogue with God, the Pope-emeritus said: “Now it is You who bear the responsibility; You must guide me! I cannot. If You wanted it from me, then You must help me, too.”

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