Archbishop Richard Smith
EDMONTON – The importance of the new evangelization and the communion between the Church in Canada and the Holy See are two themes that emerge from the recent visit to Rome by a delegation of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
"It is fair to say concern for the new evangelization pervades everything," said Archbishop Richard Smith.
Smith, the CCCB president, spent more than two weeks in Rome in November, accompanied by the new vice-president, Gatineau Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, and the conference's general secretary, Msgr. Patrick Powers.
The highlight was the visit with Pope Benedict, he said. "We really felt ourselves blessed, because of the obvious demands on his time."
Smith said they found in him "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," he said.
The pope 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 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 as really at the heart of the new evangelization," Smith said.
The delegation also met with Archbishop Rino Fisichella, the prefect of the Council for the Promoting New Evangelization, an office set up a little over a year ago.
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 anew the gift of life, and the call to be speaking out in celebration of it and in defence of it," he said.
"We really wanted to make the best use of our time possible," Smith said, noting the general secretary had lined up 34 different meetings and gatherings.
"This is an annual event, and we do this as a conference to deepen our collaboration with the Holy See," Smith said in an interview. "We function as a communion, as a college. It's great to have opportunities to put that collegial reality into practice and sit down and chat with people."
Smith said he experienced a "deep sense of encouragement and enthusiasm because of the warm welcome that was given to us and the genuine experience of collegiality among bishops."
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.
The annual visits by the CCCB have been taking place for a number of years, but not every national conference makes a similar trip.