Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 10, 2003
'Divine Providence' saved bishops from $15M WYD debt
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The Catholic bishops of Canada grappled with the prospect of paying $15 million for a sewage backup after the papal Mass at World Youth Day 2002 but "divine Providence did not abandon us," says Bishop Jacques Berthelet, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
The idea of being forced to pay an additional $15 million in the midst of a campaign to pay off the "monumental" WYD 2002 debt of almost $38 million was "catastrophic," Berthelet said in his report to the CCCB assembly Oct. 28.
He told the more than 70 bishops attending the conference that the first formal meeting in the newly acquired CCCB building in Ottawa on Jan. 3 was a "bad news" meeting because it appeared that insurance would not cover the damage.
It wasn't until late spring "after much creative discussion" that the bishops learned that World Youth Day insurance would cover the cost, he said.
"The issue is not yet completely settled, but it seems we can definitely and collectively breathe a sigh of relief," he said. "Also, while some dioceses continue to smart because of the financial repercussions of World Youth Day, the debt has been extinguished," he added.
The sewage overflow happened following the papal Mass when a plastic raincoat and some plastic bags clogged a section of the city's waste system during the July 29 rain-soaked papal Mass attended by 800,000 people.
World Youth Day organizers apologized for the damage caused to several businesses in a plaza following the incident but said the companies contracted to handle the waste disposal followed proper procedures.
Gerrit de Boer, president of Idomo Furniture International, the company that owns the plaza, estimated in a CCN interview Jan. 6 that the cost involved in the sewage overflow would be between $12 million and $14 million.
He also said he was disappointed with the Church. "It's not fair withholding information or not saying anything at this point," he said.
"The debt has been extinguished."
- Bishop Jacques Berthelet
In his report, Berthelet also said sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the past continued to involve the Church in a media controversy. A preliminary CCCB working group formed last year has recommended a 10-member taskforce be set up to study the issue but its report is not expected before the end of next year.
A meeting was held in Ottawa June 21 between a CCCB delegation and representatives of a group of people who alleged they were abused in Church-run institutions or by Catholic clergy. Any follow-up to the meeting is to be the responsibility of the taskforce, said Berthelet.