Victoria Bishop Emeritus Remi De Roo in 2016 at St. Mark’s College, where he spoke about his experiences at the Second Vatican Council. B.C. Catholic file photo

Bishop De Roo a ‘Council Father’ for a ‘Council Church’

By 
  • February 19, 2022

A tender and fond farewell to Victoria Bishop Emeritus Remi De Roo included “warm greetings of Pope Francis, who joins us in mourning and thanksgiving, and who sends his blessing.”

That greeting was conveyed by Cardinal Michael Czerny, who flew in from Rome for the funeral of Canada’s last Second Vatican Council father.

“Above all he was a Council Father who dedicated the subsequent 55 years to continually rediscovering what it means to live as a Council Christian and as a Council Church, and now indeed as a Synodal Church,” Czerny said in remarks released to The Catholic Register in advance of the Feb. 12 funeral Mass at St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Victoria, B.C.

Czerny acknowledged the controversy that Bishop De Roo often brought with him.

“Bishop De Roo’s progressive stances and apostolic service were greatly appreciated by some and greatly disparaged by others,” he said. “He remained constant in spite of a degree of marginalization and hostility, even within the Church.”

Bishop De Roo’s oldest friend, retired Senator Doug Roche, eulogized the bishop as a giant of Canadian Church history.

“Only history will reveal his true greatness,” Roche said in prepared remarks.

Quoting from Gaudium et Spes, the Vatican II constitution of the Church, Roche described his friend as “visionary, controversial and a beacon of light for all those who experience ‘the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.’ ”

“He was a prophet,” said Roche. “He proclaimed who we are as Church. He proclaimed the Church in the modern world. He proclaimed revelation. He proclaimed liturgy. He proclaimed ecumenism. He proclaimed laity. He proclaimed religious liberty.”

Czerny stressed how Bishop De Roo’s insistence on Vatican II is needed now in the papacy of Francis.

“The rediscovery of synodality must inject new energy into every area of pastoral response: catechetics, liturgy, family, employment, justice, culture, social life, charity,” he said.

”It was Remi’s prayer life that allowed him to continue to look on our Church and world with love and hope, and in the words of Paul to the Romans, to be patient in suffering,” said Sr. Marie Zarowny, who started the social justice office of the Victoria diocese under De Roo and serves now as president and board chair of the Corporation of The Sisters of Saint Ann.

Bishop De Roo died Feb. 1, just shy of his 98th birthday. He was bishop of Victoria for 37 years. As one of the youngest bishops in the world, he made four separate interventions at the 1962-1965 Council, including statements on the role of conjugal love in marriage and the role of women in the Church. He remained true to the council up until his final days.

In his last public interview with the Diocese of Victoria’s former Office of Social Justice director Dave Szollosy in June of 2021, Bishop De Roo was asked whether the Church needed a third Vatican Council.

“Rather than another council, we need a determined effort to re-implement all that Vatican II brought,” the bishop responded.

Bishop De Roo greeted the papacy of Pope Francis with joy and remained hopeful and faithful to his Church.

“I am myself quite serene and confident that, despite the problems, the Spirit is at work,” he told Szollosy.

“Know that as long as we pursue the road of justice, peace and truth we’re on the right path. If we stumble occasionally, that is perfectly, quite human.”

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