Be teachers of youth, Canadian bishops’ president tells plenary assembly

Cornwall, Canada, Sep 24, 2019 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Beginning the plenary assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil called his fellow bishops to embrace their role as teachers, especially of the younger generations.

“We are blessed this week with an opportunity, afforded to us only once a year, to gather as the episcopate in Canada and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to address important questions, to shed light on emerging concerns as well as to identify and chart the course of pastoral activity which deserves special attention on the part of the Church in our country,” Bishop Gendron, president of the Canadian bishops’ conference, said Sept. 23.

“As pastors with a mandate to evangelize, we owe it not only to the current generation, but to future generations to ensure that our words and actions are imbued with the Gospel and reflect the holiness of the Church established by Christ himself,” he reflected.

The Canadian bishops’ plenary is being held in Cornwall Sept. 23-27.

The keynote address was given by Archbishop Giampietro Dal Toso, president of the Pontifical Mission Societies and adjunct secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on the missionary nature of the Church.

The plenary assembly will also address the challenges to religious freedom and freedom of conscience, particularly after the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia in the country; as well as the northern dioceses; youth protection; the youth synod; and pastoral care of indigenous peoples.

Regarding the prevention of sexual abuse, the assembly is emphasizing action, accompaniment, and atonement.

In his report to the assembly, Bishop Gendron said that “as Scripture insists, we must exercise special solicitude for young people. Their faith, which can be expressed with the greatest fervour, is also the most fragile.”

“We shall reflect further on the awareness that the entire community is called to evangelize the young, and the urgent need for the young to exercise greater leadership through forms of service in their local communities,” he said.

The bishop said that “legislation and policies of governments at all levels as well as recent court rulings across the country have, as of late, shown contempt for those moral beliefs of Christians which run counter the thrust of other, ostensibly more progressive, social views.”

“The moral fabric of our country is well in the process of being reshaped,” he said, noting the legalization of recreational cannabis and a court decision overriding conscientious objection to euthanasia and abortion for medical professionals.

Bishop Gendron added that “while moral setbacks, such as these, are reason for deep concern, it remains important, as faith leaders, to make our voices heard –when possible in consort with other faith leaders –for change is not beyond hope, however moderate it may be, as witnessed this past year with the Canada Summer Jobs program.”

He noted that young people’s faith is “the most fragile,” and said that technological change, social media, and gender theory “are shaping a new generation of young people,” adding that youth “remain susceptible to powerful and enticing social and ideological forces outside the Church.”

Bishop Gendron lamented the fragility of the family, for “it is within the context of the family that the seeds of a lifelong and stable commitment to Christ and to the faith are both planted and cultivated over the course of many years through the ups and downs of daily life.”

He said evangelical efforts must foster deep roots in the Church. While events such as World Youth Day and the International Youth Forum are “great celebrations of faith designed with the pastoral care of young people in mind,” they “do not always lead the young participants to make commitments to Christ and the Church which live on at the same level of intensity after the events have faded into the background of their busy lives.”

He said it is the role of the Church to educate future generations and even the parents of those children. He encouraged clerics to embrace their duty as the “teachers of the teachers of the faith.”

“In all that pertains to teaching and formation, then, we must give great priority, be it our work in revising the national programs for priestly formation or supporting lay catechists and Catholic teachers in their mission as witnesses to the faith,” he said.

“Whatever we pass on by whatever means (and anything we may fail to) has a direct bearing, above all, and sometimes more than we realize, on future generations of Catholics in Canada.”

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