Leader of Canada's Bishops Speaks of Francis' 2-Part Call: Be Missionaries to Family

Urges Knights of Columbus to Respond to Pope’s Double Challenge

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Here are the speaking notes used by the leader of Canada’s bishops, Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, in an Aug. 6 address to the 2014 Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus 

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Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, thank you for the honour of inviting me to address the Supreme Convention briefly this morning, in my capacity as President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

If you were to ask me what are my primary preoccupations these days, as the President of an Episcopal Conference, I would reply it is to help my brother Bishops rise to the double challenge Pope Francis has presented us over the past year. The first of those two challenges is to respond to his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium. There he exhorts the whole Church to be engaged in pastoral and missionary conversion. The Pope’s second challenge is to participate wholeheartedly in the two-part Synod on the Family. This second challenge is, at heart, not unrelated to the first. It means using the principles articulated by Pope Francis in his Exhortation in order to apply them to a particular reality, namely the family. 

A year ago, when I was elected President of our Conference, I was not very familiar with the expression “pastoral and missionary conversion”. My understanding grew last November at the large colloquium sponsored by the Knights of Columbus at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. There I became more aware of how pastoral and missionary conversion has already been lived and experienced for several years in Latin America. By publishing his Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis has transformed a continental mission into a true world-wide mission. The fact is that we are all called to become missionary disciples of Christ in the heart of our world. 

Pope Francis did not create this out of the clear blue sky! He is simply articulating for Catholic Christians today the call that was first put forward by the Second Vatican Council. This fall we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Council’s Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. I’d like to remind you of its opening words: 

Christ is the light of humanity. It is, accordingly, the heartfelt desire of this Sacred Council, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, that, by proclaiming his Gospel to every creature, it may bring to all people that light of Christ which shines out visibly from the Church. 

This surely reminds you of the words of Saint John Paul II at the beginning of this third millennium. Listen to how he describes the program for the Church in his Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte:

Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. (no. 29.3) 

A little later, he adds: 

Those who have come into genuine contact with Christ cannot keep him for themselves, they must proclaim him. (no. 40.2) 

Yes, we are indeed all called to become missionaries to our brothers and sisters, our neighbours, our compatriots, and all those who dwell on this earth. You, my dear Knights, can be promoters of pastoral and missionary conversion, each in his own milieu. By your acts and your words, by your style of life based on the teachings of Christ, by your commitment to help the “little ones” and the poor, you are announcing the Good News. You are living the Good News. In a special way, you are responding to the challenge of family life in the context of evangelization. 

I want to thank you, therefore, on behalf of your Bishops, for actively answering the call of Pope Francis and responding to the double challenge he has issued. Let us all be witnesses to the Gospel in the heart of the world, and signs of hope in the midst of our families. Thank you and God bless you all. 

+ Paul-André Durocher 

Archbishop of Gatineau and 

President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops 

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