Address of the Apostolic Nuncio, Msgr Luigi Bonazzi,
Winnipeg, May 3, 2015
Dear Archbishop Gagnon,
My brother bishops,
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
It is truly a great joy to be with you today as the Archdiocese of Winnipeg celebrates its 100th anniversary. I bring with me the greetings and affection of our Holy Father Pope Francis, I transmit to you his Apostolic Blessing, and assure you of his closeness as well as his spiritual participation in today’s Eucharistic Liturgy.
A diocesan community established as a “portion of the People of God” under the pastoral care of its chief shepherd, is called to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ. It was this conviction born of a personal encounter with Christ that saw the first missionaries come to this region and set down the foundations for the Church in Manitoba; it would lead to the creation of the first diocese of Western Canada, the venerable Diocese, now Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface, and eventually, in 1915, the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. And enriching the ecclesial life of this region, the first Ukrainian Eparchy was established in this city, now the Metropolitan Arch-Eparchy of Winnipeg. I greet their respective Archbishops present here today, and through them, their ecclesial communities.
During the course of his Pastoral Visit to Canada in 1984, St. John Paul II noted the unique social as well as ecclesial character of this region, which I am pleased to recall: “Manitoba itself truly reflects a variety of many different cultures. Besides its population of British and French origin – in addition to native peoples – so many other Western countries – are represented here. Immigration from Western and Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa and South America contributes to making up the reality of this civil society. Latin and Ukrainian ecclesial jurisdictions compose one Catholic Church… Yes, you come from almost ‘every tribe and tongue, people and nation’ (Rev 5:9)” (Homily, Eucharistic Celebration, September 16, 1984).
Today, the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of your Archdiocese will leave a legacy that you yourselves have set forth as a program of life, expressed in the motto “Proclaiming Christ Always.” In his Message, Pope Francis indorses your “program of life”, urging you “to reflect on the call and the joy of ‘Proclaiming Christ Always’,” so that your “entire local Church will be renewed in missionary fervor and be ever more united as a people of reconciliation, fraternity and justice” (cf. Message, March 2, 2015).
But what does “Proclaiming Christ Always” mean, practically speaking? It means four things which I would like to remind you of briefly.
Proclaiming Christ Always means, above all, that the point of departure of a Christian’s life is Jesus Christ. Therefore, to understand our history and, in particular, to tackle the problems that often assail us, we need to start, first of all, from Jesus; the first step, the first thing to do, above all, is to go to Jesus. It is only after we have ‘spent time’ with Jesus – in prayer, in listening to His Word and taking part in the Sacraments – will we find the light, the courage and the strength to face the difficulties we encounter, so as to overcome and transform them into opportunities for good. Therefore start, always start, from Jesus, through prayer, by living the Gospel and taking part in the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
Secondly, Proclaiming Christ Always means placing as the foundation of our Christian life, the “law of Christ”, namely charity. The Christian is called to put charity into all the aspects of life. And charity, as St. Paul reminds us: “is always patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor 13: 4-7). These are the “good works” which Pope Francis speaks about in his Message marking your 100th Anniversary. Let us remember: only the one who loves conquers. Love overcomes everything, because “whoever lives in love, lives in God and God lives in him” (1 John 4: 16).
Thirdly, Proclaiming Christ Always means being animated continuously by Christian hope. The Christian is someone who lives at all times, animated by hope; who knows that Jesus is risen, and that He has conquered sin by His death and that with Him, we can overcome our sins and death itself! If we let Him live in us, the power of the Risen One acts: there is no knot that cannot be undone; there is no mountain that cannot be moved; there is no death that cannot be redeemed and returned to Life. In a particular way the Christian looks at death with hope and does not see it as the end of everything, but as a passage from this [earthly] life to [eternal] Life.
And finally, Proclaiming Christ Always means membership within the community. The Christian lives and shares his or her life in fraternal communion. The Christian does not live an isolated life but always within the Church, animated by missionary fervor, giving a hand to God and a hand to one’s brothers and sisters.
Proclaiming Christ Always means to shine with the beauty of the Christian life, which in every moment, has its departure point in Christ, increases by a life of charity, is continually animated by hope, and grows in fraternal communion.
Dear Archbishop Gagnon, with the collaboration of your clergy, religious and lay faithful, may the Church of this venerable Archdiocese of Winnipeg, experience the joy that comes from knowing Christ Jesus and of making him known! AMEN.