February 8, 2016
DEBORAH GYAPONG
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA - A decision on whether the Alexandria-Cornwall Diocese will get a new bishop or become part of the Ottawa Archdiocese will be made by July 2017, says the Ottawa archbishop.

On Jan. 13, Pope Francis named Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast apostolic administrator of Alexandria-Cornwall after Bishop Marcel Damphousse's move to the Sault Sainte Marie Diocese.

Prendergast said discussions concerning Alexandria-Cornwall predated his 2007 arrival in Ottawa.

The archbishop said he did not think any more of the matter until Alexandria-Cornwall Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher was reassigned to Gatineau.

"At the time, I didn't have the energy or the resources," Prendergast said.

Ottawa now has an auxiliary bishop in Bishop Christian Riesbeck. With Damphousse's move, the current nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, told Prendergast: "We need to talk about the future of Alexandria-Cornwall."

DECISION TIME

"Now is the time for us to look at whether the future of the diocese should be with another bishop or in a cooperative arrangement with another diocese," Prendergast said.

When serving as archbishop of Halifax, Prendergast also was apostolic administrator for the Yarmouth Diocese for five and half years. In 2009, Yarmouth became part of the Halifax Archdiocese.

The waiting period was too long, Prendergast said. He has asked for a decision on the fate of Alexandria-Cornwall fairly soon.

BILINGUAL DIOCESE

Alexandria-Cornwall is a suffragan diocese of the Kingston Archdiocese, but it abuts the Ottawa Archdiocese, so that many Ottawa parishes along the highway to Montreal are close to Alexandria-Cornwall parishes, the archbishop said. It's also a bilingual diocese, as is Ottawa, while Kingston is not.

"One of the main reasons for leaning more towards Ottawa is for the protection of the French language," Prendergast said.

Any new bishop of the diocese has to be functionally bilingual, he said. "It's a challenge for the nuncio to find bilingual priests" who can serve as bishops.

Alexandria-Cornwall has 26 parishes and missions serving a Catholic population of 55,675. It is also one of the smallest dioceses in terms of geographical size.

While small dioceses can offer a new bishop the chance to be tested and formed, having a bishop only for a short time creates instability, Prendergast said. If the bishop's cathedral "has an ejector seat, that's not fair to the diocese."