Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Smith elected CCCB vice-president
Approached by other bishops, he agrees to added responsibility
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
CORNWALL, ONT. - Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith has been elected to a two-year term as vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"I think it needs more prayers than congratulations," Smith told the WCR in an Oct. 21 phone interview.
The election puts Smith in line to become president of the CCCB two years from now. But the archbishop said he is not going to presume that will happen.
"I don't like to presume anything like that because you never know what things might unfold over the course of two years."
Smith's election as vice-president comes as something of a surprise. The past practice has been for a bishop to serve four years as a co-treasurer of the CCCB before moving into the vice-president's chair.
But the conference has moved to a new process of choosing its executive that separates the nominating process for the two treasurer positions from those for the president and vice-president, he said.
The presidency of the CCCB alternates between the French and English sectors.
When first approached to allow his name to stand for vice-president, Smith said, "I hesitated."
The size of the Edmonton Archdiocese and the scope of projects currently underway are "challenging enough," he said. "At first, I thought, 'No, I don't need to do this.'"
But then other bishops began approaching him to take the role. "For the sake of my brother bishops and for the sake of the conference, I said I would consider it."
That led to a process of voting through the mail among English-sector bishops over the last several months, Smith said. The election was confirmed at the CCCB assembly on Oct. 20.
Chosen as the conference president for the next two years was Bishop Pierre Morissette of Saint-Jerome, Quebec. He replaces Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber.
Archbishop Emeritus Joseph MacNeil served as CCCB president from 1979 to 1981. One of the highlights of his term was the invitation to Pope John Paul II to visit Canada, a visit that took place in 1984.
Smith, a native of Halifax, has been archbishop of Edmonton since May 2007. Prior to that, he was bishop of Pembroke, Ont., beginning in 2002.
The archbishop said he does not know how his new post will affect his work in Edmonton.
He will have to attend more meetings at conference headquarters in Ottawa and, on occasion, represent the CCCB at events when the president is unable to attend. But the president, he said, carries much of the workload of the conference.
Smith said he and archdiocesan staff have already become accustomed to staying in contact via email and other means when he is away.
As part of his job as CCCB vice-president, Smith will chair the conference's new standing committee on communications.
"It's something I have a personal interest in. I really think that the Church, because of the mission to evangelize, has to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to it through the communications media."
In terms of the conference's overall priorities, Smith said evangelization and issues that threaten human dignity are major concerns.
While the current bill to legalize euthanasia is not likely to pass Parliament, the issue will not go away, he said. There is an ongoing need to foster a culture of life.
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