D&P and CCCB continue close collaboration: Smith
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News
OTTAWA (CCN) — During the annual plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in Sainte-Adele, Que., Sept. 24-28, the bishops reaffirmed their ongoing collaboration with Development and Peace (D&P), walking a fine line between respecting its lay-run character and ensuring its Catholic identity.
During the plenary, a report appeared in the National Post and sister papers that accused the bishops of blocking D&P’s fall educational campaign for being too political.
“The most important thing to emphasize is the bishops are working
with D&P on their fall campaign,” said CCCB president Archbishop
Richard Smith in an interview from his Edmonton archdiocese Oct. 1
The bishops support the principle of D&P’s annual fall educational campaign which raises consciousness about the needs in the developing world “to make people aware of the plight but also the reasons behind it,” he said.
D&P can embark on educational programs, but when the strategy includes working through the parishes in local dioceses, “nothing should be taking place without the consent of the local bishop,” he said.
In this year’s fall campaign, D&P departed from its plan of focusing on environmental themes to raising questions about Canada’s international aid policies, following substantial reductions in CIDA grants over the next five years. The agency, founded by the bishops more than 40 years ago, was “formulating a campaign as part of a broader movement of development agencies,” he said.
“Some of the material was becoming a little more direct political lobbying than we’re accustomed to,” Smith said. Some bishops, Smith included, expressed concern the materials might cause divisiveness in parishes and among donors.
The bishops must ensure “whatever’s done fosters the unity of the church and is in no way divisive” or causing conflict, he said.
Smith said he spoke to the leadership of D&P about the concerns,
which they received graciously, openly and with a “readiness to
Smith described an open and frank discussion among the bishops and D&P’s president and executive director, who both got a chance to respond to the plenary. The fall program will stick with the foreign aid theme, he said, the details are D&P’s “bailiwick.”
D&P executive director Michael Casey said they were “very pleased” with the discussion at the plenary, sharing Smith’s assessment that it was “open and frank” and stressed the need for church unity.
“We as an agency of the church are fully in support of that,” Casey said in an interview from Montreal Oct. 2.
“We are now looking at revising our materials in light of the discussion with the bishops about the campaign and planning to go ahead with a revised campaign beginning Oct. 15,” he said.
The bishops also heard a report from Toronto Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau, from the Standing Committee on Development and Peace, about the progress of documents outlining the principles guiding D&P’s relationship with its overseas partners, contracts with them, the integration of Pope Benedict XVI’s social justice encyclical Caritas in Veritate into D&P’s work, and the training of its staff.
Smith said the documents are “close to final draft stage” and are “still being reviewed.”
In other plenary news, the off-the-record meeting with Immigration Minister Jason Kenney went well, Smith said. “The conversation was very respectful, open and very frank.”
Many dioceses have people who work directly with immigrants and refugees, so their questions came to the bishops’ attention. “It was a welcome opportunity to speak to the minister as a voice for the voiceless,” Smith said. “He certainly did hear us.”
The bishops also marked the upcoming 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council.
Smith spoke of how Pope Benedict XVI in his emphasis on the Year of Faith is the clearest voice calling for people to read and understand the documents of the Second Vatican Council so the new evangelization can be based on the beauty of the Catholic faith articulated in them.