Bishop William McGrattan, the newly-elected vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Plenary keeps its focus on uncertain future

  • September 30, 2021

OTTAWA -- The future of the Catholic Church in Canada emerged as a main theme as Canada’s bishops gathered online for the second year in a row for a virtual plenary assembly Sept. 21-24.

The bishops found themselves considering how the Church can emerge from the COVID pandemic in the future with a vital role to play in the lives of Canada’s Catholics.

“How we all had to use technology when the churches were closed to connect the Church with Canadians in difficult times, and how that will impact the Church going forward is something we will have to address and consider,” said Bishop William McGrattan, the newly-elected vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an interview following the close of the plenary on Sept. 24.

“What is the balance between how technology can help connect the Church with Canadians and the more traditional, everyone gather on Sunday in person for Mass, is something that we will have to see evolve as the COVID situation changes,” the Calgary bishop said.“How quickly will people be willing to get together again in person or will there be people who are more comfortable staying online in the future. We don’t know what the future will hold.”

It’s all up in the air as churches nationwide are still dealing with health restrictions surrounding COVID-19. And it will be for some time, McGrattan believes.

“We are planning to meet in person again next year in Cornwall (for the plenary), but we will have to see if that is possible,” said McGrattan.

McGrattan said the steps being taken in the lead leading up to 2023 Synod of Bishops entitled “For a Synodal Church: Communication, Participation and Mission” will play a role in how the Church moves forward post-COVID.

“That whole process will likely have a big role to play in what will happen in the future,” said McGrattan.

The synod in 2023 will be an important re-setting of the Church’s pastoral mission, preparation documents from the Vatican have signaled.

“The upcoming synod is very important in the life of the universal Church and during this initial phase, all people of God — laity, religious, clergy — will be called to engage and dialogue on the synodal journey,” CCCB spokesperson Lisa Gall said in a e-mail.

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