Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 23, 2002
Bishops 'bite the bullet' as World Youth Day deficit hits $38M
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The Catholic bishops of Canada will hold their annual plenary assembly next month under the shadow of a World Youth Day 2002 deficit that has climbed to $38 million dollars.
A national campaign to pay down the deficit - which was initially reported at $30 million - was launched following World Youth Day in Toronto at the end of July but has brought in less than a half million dollars to date.
Despite the lower than expected attendance at WYD, which organizers blamed on fears of terrorism following the Sept. 11 attacks, concerns over the pope's health and the current sex-abuse scandal in the church, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops termed the international youth event "a huge success."
Officials had hoped that at least 450,000 youth would register for the six-day event in Toronto, attended by Pope John Paul but only 187,000 paying registrants signed up.
Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, the general secretary of the CCCB, told CCN Sept. 16 that the original deficit figure of $30 million involved internal financing such as loans provided to WYD by the Canadian bishops, while the other $8-million is for "outside creditors." He doesn't expect the deficit to climb higher.
No additional time has been allotted for discussions about World Youth Day costs when the bishops of the 74 Canadian dioceses meet in Cornwall Oct. 17-22 for their annual plenary assembly. However, a half-hour has been set aside for the report of the bishops in charge of WYD -Archbishop Anthony Meagher and Bishop Francois Lapierre, at which time questions may be asked by the bishops.
Schonenbach said there may be some extended discussion about WYD, but much has already been done at regional meetings of bishops held prior to the plenary.
The CCCB budget, which is presented annually, won't include the WYD deficit because "it is the responsibility of the individual bishops in Canada," Schonenbach said.
"All the bishops have been notified about the portion of the deficit that they will be responsible for," he said. Under civil law, the bishops of the English sector own the churches and properties in their dioceses and can use them as collateral to obtain bank loans, said Schonenbach.
However, Quebec's bishops are not considered the legal owners of the churches and its assets, he said. Nevertheless, they are to meet in Quebec City Sept. 23 to "put the finishing touches" on a plan to help pay down the deficit as a collective, said Schonenbach.
The CCCB general secretary said some of the bishops "are not at all enthused about having to bite the bullet on this one," but he added, "I think that all of them feel that it (WYD) has to be seen in terms of an investment in the future Church, rather than something that is sort of a bad debt."