Archbishop Richard Smith

Archbishop Richard Smith

June 29, 2015

Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith will be one of four Canadian delegates to the world Synod of Bishops on the vocation and mission of the family at the Vatican in October.

The other three Canadian delegates to the Oct. 4-25 synod will be Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher of Gatineau, Que., president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB); Bishop Noel Simard of Valleyfield, Que.; and Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto.

The four delegates and two alternates – Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller and Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Que. – were chosen by the country's bishops and formally appointed by Pope Francis.

Another Canadian who will be a synod delegate is Father Michael Brehl, superior general of the Redemptorists.

Although Smith has served as CCCB president, this will be the first synod of bishops at which he is a delegate.

In an interview, the archbishop said he is not yet sure what message he will want to take to the synod.

The Canadian delegates will meet before the synod to discuss the issues they want to raise. As well, much of the work at the synod itself will take place in small groups and informal discussions, he said.

Considerable news coverage of the synod has focused on what steps, if any, the meeting might recommend to enable divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive the Eucharist or to recognize same-sex marriages.


Smith said he has no idea of the extent to which those issues will come up at the synod, although they received only a small amount of attention at the 2014 extraordinary synod that was meant to prepare for the synod this fall.

The question he said the synod will face is "How do you reach out pastorally and lovingly to people in difficult situations but in a way that remains always faithful to the truth of Jesus Christ?"

However, many people see those concerns "through the prism of what the secular world says are the most important issues," he said.

Media are speculating that the bishops will "play loose" with Church doctrine. That will not happen, Smith said.


"No bishop is going to play loose with doctrine. It's the role of the bishop to receive the teaching of the Lord, to receive the teaching of the Church and to hand it on with fidelity, not to alter it."

In any event, the synod itself does not set the direction for the Church; that is the pope's responsibility. The bishops' responsibility at the synod, he said, is to talk, debate, discern, pray together and make recommendations to the pope.


The synod will examine the call of the family to be the domestic Church and to be an agent of the new evangelization, the archbishop said.

Smith said he hopes his involvement in the synod will benefit the archdiocese which has already pinpointed the family as one major area of evangelization.

Evangelization is one of three pastoral priorities of the archdiocese – the other two are faith formation and nurturing a culture of vocations.

"I'm finding the coincidence of these two events (the synod and the setting of archdiocesan priorities) to be very providential."