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Canada's Bishops on 40 Years of Solidarity

"Communicating Christ's Love"

OTTAWA, JUNE 3, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the pastoral message issued by the Canadian bishops' conference on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the foundation of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace.

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Communicating Christ's Love Through the Mission of Development and Peace

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

None of us may ever know the full international impact that the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace has made. Nor will any of us likely ever know the ways in which 40 years of this labor have assisted families and communities in some of the most impoverished areas of the world. These achievements reflect something tangible about the reality of faith working through love, and ultimately God's astonishing desire to use the human person as an instrument of his peace.

In 1967, Pope Paul VI recognized that "extreme disparity between nations in economic, social and educational levels provokes jealousy and discord, often putting peace in jeopardy."[1] This is why he affirmed that development is the new name for peace. Peace on earth is founded on justice, solidarity and unwavering respect for the dignity of human life at every stage, in every condition, in relation to the common good.

1. The Prophetic Call to a Civilization of Love

This call of Paul VI moved the Catholic bishops of Canada to create the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace in 1967, with its twofold role to provide development assistance in the global South as well to educate and sensitize Canadian Catholics about peace and justice issues. In their subsequent pastoral letter to mark this achievement, the bishops of Canada insisted the new organization was not to take account of "the religious belief or ideologies of the people to whom aid is given. The only consideration will be the intrinsic value of the projects, their conformity with criteria of priority, and the evaluation of their human and social effectiveness. We are convinced that we who dare to call ourselves [Christ's] disciples must share his universal love and compassion, embracing generously the sacrifices that love entails."[2]

The bishops of Canada called for a joint effort "for the creation of a renewed humanity."[3] The goal is to build a world where men and women "can live truly human lives, free from discrimination on account of race, religion or nationality, free from servitude ... or ... natural forces which they cannot yet control satisfactorily."[4] Thus, the mandate of Development and Peace is totally consistent with the appeal of Paul VI and Pope John Paul II to build a "civilization of love."

2. Witness to Love in Action

Through its many activities, Development and Peace is an effective means for the Catholic Church in Canada to express its preferential love for the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed. Today, in communion with the universal Church and in fidelity to the Gospel, the Catholics of our country affirm with renewed determination their declaration of loving service in the work of Development and Peace.

This commitment is a living manifestation of the intimate love that God bears for the human family. For this reason, it can never be reduced to solely technical service. A few years before he died, John Paul II wrote: "In Christ, God has truly assumed a 'heart of flesh.' Not only does God have a divine heart, rich in mercy and in forgiveness, but also a human heart, capable of all the stirrings of affection."[5]

Over the past 40 years, Development and Peace has rendered an extraordinary service to the impoverished people of the global South. It has provided $500 million to support 14,665 projects and programs in 70 countries of the South. Of this amount, $120 million was allocated as emergency aid in response to natural disasters or to assist refugees in the wake of wars and civil disturbances.

One example: Following the tsunami that devastated Southeast Asia in 2004, Development and Peace entered into partnerships with communities throughout the region to build thousands of new homes. Overall, the projects Development and Peace has supported in developing countries include peace-building and civic education programs, community development, fostering the social economy, improving agricultural production, promoting human rights, providing education, and campaigning against destructive policies such as the patenting of seeds and the privatization of water.

None of this work would have been possible without the solidarity and generosity of Catholics in Canada -- their donations, time, prayers and commitment. Such solidarity affirms the dignity of the human person who is suffering because of natural disasters and the depredations of war, famine and poverty. The bishops of Canada express ...

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