Msgr. Patrick Powers and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith are shown in this photo taken at the 2012 plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

CCN FILE PHOTO | DEBORAH GYAPONG

Msgr. Patrick Powers and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith are shown in this photo taken at the 2012 plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

September 16, 2013
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

Caritas, or charity, both at home and abroad is the theme of this year's annual plenary of Canada's Catholic bishops Sept. 23-27 in Sainte-Adele, Que., says Msgr. Patrick Powers.

Floods in southern Alberta, the fire at Lac-Mégantic, Que., and the flash flooding in Toronto highlighted the fact Canada's bishops do not have an organized structure to respond to tragedies here at home in Canada, said Powers, general secretary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

This year's plenary will feature a "thorough conversation on charity," Powers said.

It will feature not only presentations by Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, president of the Holy See's charitable federation Caritas Internationalis, and general secretary Michel Roy, but also reflections on "how we can come to the aid of people right here in our own country," he said.

CANADIAN SOLIDARITY

When the CCCB president, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, "wrote his letters of sympathy, he invited all the bishops of Canada to stand in solidarity with these people," Powers said.

Both Calgary Bishop Fred Henry and Sherbrooke Archbishop Luc Cyr have told him they were "tremendously heartened by the support they received from all over the country."

The motivation for inviting the cardinal began with Smith and Powers reflecting on the past year that had "really highlighted the role of the diocesan bishop as a promoter of caritas in his own diocese," Powers said.

Rodriguez will discuss the role of the bishop and of episcopal conferences in justice, peace and caritas, said Powers.

Roy will follow with an in-depth presentation of the structure of Caritas Internationalis, which is headquartered in Rome. The cardinal also heads the group of eight cardinals advising Pope Francis on reform of the Roman Curia.

The plenary will also hear from three or four bishops from the Global South who will share their concerns about Canadian mining and extractive industries operating in their countries, he said.

NEW PRESIDENT

Smith's two-year term as president comes to an end after he chairs this plenary session. The bishops will elect a new president, vice president and co-treasurers for the CCCB executive and a new permanent council.

The CCCB marks its 70th anniversary this year with a celebration dinner Thursday Sept. 26 honouring all former presidents of the conference.

Edmonton Archbishop-emeritus Joseph MacNeil and Montreal Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte will be the guest speakers.

The bishops will also examine the challenges facing Canadian families, Powers said. Representatives of four of Canada's largest dioceses' family and life offices will make a presentation on the pastoral care of families.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE

As well, Edmonton constitutional lawyer Kevin Feehan will lead a reflection the "continuing challenges to freedom of conscience and religion" based on current cases in the public square, Powers said.

The bishops will also deal with governance issues. "The reflections on our finances continue," said Powers. "A net figure of $945,000 has been cut from our annual payroll. It's been a painful and difficult thing to do."

"We've also spent $250,000 in the last two years on upgrading the infrastructure of our information technology that has been neglected for 15 years," said the general secretary.

Because of the work that has been done, the CCCB's secretariat has been able to provide dioceses across the country with "up-to-the-minute information concerning the universal Church," especially events from Rome, with the ability to live stream footage on the CCCB's website.

Salt and Light TV will televise the morning Eucharists each day as well as the 3 p.m. (MT) news conferences where Gatineau Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, the CCCB vice president, will present a synopsis of the day in French and co-treasurer Hamilton Bishop Doug Crosby will do the same in English.