Bishop Dunn's ad limina visit 2017

Bishop Brian Dunn made an ad limina visit to Rome during the month of March.
Here are his blog posts from Rome and other details about this important event.

Bishop Dunn's Media Interviews:

CBC Radio Information Morning: March 22, 2017

989 XFM Antigonish: March 21, 2017

Catholic Register: March 16, 2017

Catholic News Service video: March 16, 2017

Bishop Dunn in the media:

Port Hawkesbury Reporter: March 3, 2017





March 18, 2017 - Day Seven

Final Day of the ad limina 

We began our day celebrating Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, one of the four major basilicas.











Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples

romeEvangeofPeopsMarch008We visited the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (photo at left.) Cardinal Felloni and his staff welcomed us.

One year ago, the Congregation lost the relationship with the six northern dioceses of Canada, which were given to the Congregation for Bishops.  These dioceses are being more integrated with the southern dioceses of Canada. The Holy Father agreed with this proposal from the CCCB.  The Congregation still has a relationship with two small islands off Newfoundland (St. Pierre and Miquelon), but these may be passed to France.  The Congregation also deals with Pontifical Mission Societies.

Bishops Hundt led the discussion by speaking of the change in boundaries that affected Labrador. Most of the north of Canada was served by Oblates but they have decreased in numbers; thus the need of priests from the rest of Canada.  However, all our dioceses are being assisted by foreign priest.  We wanted to discuss how to ensure that foreign priests are welcomed and are being inculturated.

The cardinal noted the importance of local vocations, especially in the age of secularization.  He emphasized the need to encourage vocations and the need to challenge families to take responsibility for vocations.  Good priests will also inspire vocations.  We need to acknowledge the abuse of clergy, and the lack of trust that has resulted.  The Congregation is aware that dioceses are trying to get priests from Africa and other countries.  Dioceses need to be aware that some of these foreign priests want to come for their own projects.  Any priests who studied in Rome received scholarships from the universities to return home, not to go to North America. Dioceses need to respect the need of the local dioceses in Africa. This is a question of justice.  When priests are prepared, they need to elevate their own local situation in these new churches.

romeVanMarch18009Many priests that come to North America are often religious who are missionary congregations.  These are fine, but we need to be aware of diocesan priests.  Dioceses need to be in contact with the local bishop of foreign priests.  Dioceses were asked not to take these priests for long periods of time (only 3-5 years).  Dioceses need to remember that the some foreign priests need to return home.  We need to take responsibility for young churches and respect the intention of the donor who donated funds to train a priest for his own diocese, not for North America.  

What is the relation of this Congregation with Canadian bishops in light of the change of the northern dioceses?  From Vatican II, it was expressed the need to focus on solidarity among all dioceses. Evangelization is the responsibility of the whole church.  We need to be ready to assist younger churches, e.g., building schools or hospitals.

This Congregation also has the Pontifical Missionary Societies and the Congregation thanks all dioceses who support these societies.  These societies promote the missionary spirit and support the work of the Holy Father.  We need to support one another for missionary works, e.g., the Society of Peter the Apostle supports the promotion of vocations.   

What about requests of missionary societies who want to come for missionary appeals?  This could be one diocese supporting another, assisting those in need.  Please maintain the Sunday collection during Mission Sunday for this can manifest the solidarity with and responsibility for the whole church.  1008 dioceses are assisted.  If you have a relationship with a particular diocese, then you can nurture that relationship separately.

It is important not to have other celebrations on Mission Sunday.  This is an important issue in order to assist people to be aware of their responsibility to spread the Good News to all the world.

This is the last vist of the ad limina visit.  (Photo above: the van that took us to our ad limina meetings.)

The Atlantic bishops will have their regular meeting beginning on Monday.


March 17, 2017 - Day Six

Congregation for Instititutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

romeConsecratedLifeMeetingWe visited the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. (Photo at left: Awaiting the start of the meeting for Consecrated Life)

The Congregation is working on a new version of Mutuae Relationes. The new document will have some principles: Church as a communion; co-existence in charity of hierarchical and charismatic gifts; the autonomy of institutes of consecrated life. The new document will focus on the bishop and his relationship with all who are consecrated. Before the final document, further dialogue will take place.

The cardinal (Joao Braz de Aviz) comes from Brazil and was prefect for five years. There were six officials with us. In the Congregation, there are 13 women of consecrated life.

Bishop Claude Champagne led the discussion by speaking of some issues: the relationship of institutes of pontifical right and the bishop; the assets of religious institutes which may be declining; a question about the Trappistine monastery in Rogersville, NB.

The bishop must care for all institutes, accompanying them and acknowledging the autonomy of each institute. He may have more responsibility when there is an institute of diocesan right. The Congregation noted that it is important to dialogue. For diocesan institutes, the bishop should visit the institute; for pontifical right institutes, the bishop has less responsibility.

The official spoke of accompanying individuals and communities in their consecrated life. He noted that there are different ways of intervention when there are concerns with the administration of ecclesiastical goods. The fundamental principle is that the members are responsible for the administration of goods including when an institute is dying.

The charism of an institute comes from the Spirit and the Holy Spirit decides when this charism is no longer necessary.

For Canada, the Congregation has approved several Public Juridic Persons (canonical corporations) for hospitals and schools. When an institute can no longer go on, there continues to be some elements of common life.

The bishop must promote vocations to consecrated life. Since the age of members of consecrated life is increasing, in 10 years the reality of consecrated life will be very problematic. We need to acknowledge this, for the evangelical life is important for a diocese.

The Trappistines of NB have a large monastery with a small number of members and they want to sell their property to a developer and build a small building. The reality is that many congregations are not accepting new members because of the situation of their institute. The Congregation is glad to hear that the Trappistines want to stay and live out their charism in a smaller building. They mentioned that the permission of the Congregation is needed to sell the monastery.

When a community sees its numbers diminishing, it needs to consider how the church will benefit from the charism of the institute. Sometimes this could be done through the establishment of a public juridic person to keep the goods of the institute within the church. We acknowledged the many examples of generosity of communities giving goods to dioceses.

The Congregation asked for some information about the status of the Franciscans of Halifax. Archbishop Mancini spoke of the origins of the group; its spirit, ministry and presence in the Archdiocese and indicated that the group is an association of the faithful. In its origins, this association grew out of a parish prayer grou p and evolved into an association of persons wanting to be more committed to each other and the Church. This took the form of a new community in the Franciscan spirit.

Archbishop Carballo shared his experience with new communities from the perspective of the Congregation. He offered advice of a general nature, to the Atlantic bishops, telling us to be careful when dealing with new groups and foundations; to monitor with care their evolution as communities and to be attentive to the exercise of leadership in new communities. This advice arose from having encountered problems of various kinds, in different new communities in different parts of the world. Some of these problems had to do with moral issues; the use of money; and the exercise of authority. He emphasized that the bishop is called to discern the charism within the diocese.


Congregation for Clergy

We visited the Congregation for Clergy with Cardinal Stella and his staff. Bishop Dunn led the discussion asking about the following issues: shortage of priests, the role of deacons, the closure of churches, permanent diaconarte for women, and married clergy.

The cardinal began by asking why many dioceses in Canada do not have deacons. Some dioceses mentioned some of the reasons for this, including: a focus on the promotion of the laity, especially the formation of lay people to be parish workers; the realization that the ministry exercised by a deacon can often be done by the laity with some delegation; the training of deacons takes 1000 hours and this is quite a challenge; many dioceses do not have a seminary nor the formators that are necessary.

The cardinal stated that some of these reasons seem to be ideological reasons and others are theological and practical. He encouraged what we can do and the importance of deacons serving in the work of charity, especially family apostolate from their experience. Formation is important, emphasizing that the ministry of the deacon is above all outside the church. The issue of married men may be addressed; conferences of bishops may express to the Holy Father what they need.

Recognizing that there is no seminary in the area, we need to reach out to young people. In new ratio from the Congregations, we need to focus on pastoral care.. We need to make efforts to educate the laity; we need to have experiences of prayer and action for the young. The ratio speaks of the renewal of the presbyterium as well as the need to address university students. We discussed the contacts with young people in confirmation and the realization that this is a real good-bye in our communities.

We discussed the challenge of recruiting priests. We acknowledged the practice of North American dioceses naming diocesan priests to colleges. They can create a community of young people, draw in young people where secularism is rampant and the priest should be there to listen. While young people are few because there are few children, we are suffering from low birth rate. This is not just a matter of numbers but also connected to other issues, e.g., faith seems to be weak in families and young people seem to be afraid of the lack of commitment.

Some bishops have been ordaining priests who are older and perhaps this may be a source of vocations for the time being. Some older men may have wisdom and this may be a temporary solution.

We acknowledged that sexual abuse has caused many problems and we realize the need to reestablish trust and the need to reestablish relationship. We must acknowledge this reality. We need to train priests in initial formation and reveal any issues at that stage. We need to ponder this matter deeply especially regarding those with homosexual affections.

We need to acknowledge the quality of new priests: it seems that secularization and individualism have effected their vocations. New vocations may not have had the community of faith that could have been a support, especially when there is a broken family. These young people are often suspicious of the institutionalized church. They often have no sense that a vocation comes from larger perspective, from the community and the larger church and not just a ‘me and Jesus’ spirrituality.

We discussed some experiences of individualism of youth. It seems that these really affect young people. If a young person has no experience of giving, it can be difficult. They need to risk in doing something, taking that small step. This new generation can give us a new opportunity. The Synod bishops and youth are called to work together; we need to see flowers blooming in the desert. The pastor who has no joy or conviction cannot minister.

In speaking about the closure of churches, we need to try not to close until you are forced to: we need to have a dialogue with the people involved; this should not lead to abandoning of the faith. We need to recognize the importance of churches for communities (linked to the spiritual life of a family). However the contributing factors include: the shortage of priests, the declining numbers of parishioners; the need to provide good pastoral care; the desire to maintain a community. In the midst of this situation, we need to consider what is a viable parish. When there are no baptisms, no marriages, only funerals, how does this relate to a viable parish. Foreign priests can help, but has its own problems (culture, language).

We must realize that closure is the symbol of declining communities. There may be a problem of finances, e.g., parishes cannot pay the benefits for clergy. There is often a small group who cannot accept the closure of churches and parishes and people often stop going to church. What answer can we give: long before we have ceased from being a parish, the parish has ceased to provide care for the poor, care for youth and have ceased to be real community of faith.

We discussed the issue of many priests who do not want to be in charge of a parish, but want to be sacramental priests with no responsibility for parishes. This is a painful development, but it acknowledges the suffering of priests. We need to keep our eyes open to the difficulties of priests.

We discussed the reality of foreign priests. We need to be hesitate to incardinate these priests, they should have an agreement with bishop. Regarding priests who have abandoned the ministry, we need to seek them out for a dispensation, to assist priests in their difficulty with the faculties that are available. The congregation closed by affirming the importance of episcopal fraternity, the relationship among bishops.

Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts

Then we visited the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. The Undersecretary greeted us and asked whether there is any need for legislation that is not in the code: e.g., Germany. We spoke of the particular law regarding the protocol for sexual abuse, but we did not want to be seen as a national church; we need to acknowledge the autonomy of the diocese.

We discussed numerous issues especially Diocesan Synods. The Council noted that it was rare to have a Diocesan Synod. It seems that a gathering of the faithful is more in line with theology of Vatican II.

Regarding corporation sole and the need to restructure, the Council mentioned the importance of redefining a the nature of a parish. With the new civil structure, the parish pastoral council could be very helpful. We also discussed the presence of canonist within each diocese.

Regarding the shorter process for annulments, the council mentioned the need for certain conditions: that the nullity is clear, that it is easy to prove and both parties must agree to the process, that the hearing could take place in one day. This is easy in Italy because of small areas, but it is more difficult for Germans and others. In the discussion of the shorter process, it was suggested that the bishop could delegate this, but this has not been accepted. There is a challenge to find simple cases and there are issues of antagonism. The ministry is to try to liberate people, but it seems that people are not ready to respond. It must be affirmed that the Defender of the Bond is very helpful in this process.

The Council asked about having a Penal Tribunal for the whole country. It seems that this might be more problematic due to issues connected with the protection of documents.

The Council noted its availability for the assistance of bishops.

RomeStPaulOutsideWe ended our day with the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of the four major Basilicas in Rome. This church was built on the tomb of Saint Paul and it was another occasion for me to remember all the priests, deacons (and candidates), religious and lay people of our diocese.







March 16, 2017 - Day Five

The Audience with Pope Francis

(Photos: Top: hallway of the Apostolic Palace;  Centre; Bishop Brian Dunn awaiting his audience with Pope Francis; Below, meeting Pope Francis - photo by Servizio Fotographico)


The meeting with the Holy Father took place at the Apostolic Palace.

The Holy Father welcomed us and stated that we are free to raise any issue that we want. Archbishop Mancini led the discussion by highlighting some of the pastoral concerns that are affecting our dioceses: aging population, shortage of priests, new evangelization where many have left the practice of the faith and have failed to transmit the faith, social issues of unemployment and mining. People responded well to refugees. The issue of sexual abuse by clergy has reminded us of the harm done to victims and their families and this situation has led to many people viewing priests with suspicion.The Holy Father acknowledged this sexual abuse as a serious problem, especially since priests are chosen by the Lord to bring the children of God to a greater awareness of his love. Yet the priest has destroyed the life of these young people. We need to have the courage to confront this with strength, for people who have done this are sick. This is our shame and we need to make reparation to the Lord. We need to have courage to face this issue and to accompany priests who are left in the diocese.


We spoke of the new law on Euthanasia and our struggle with this. We need to present the message to people, even when most of the population is in favour of the new law. We need to accompany people at the end of life. This raises the issue of a throwaway culture, where the centre is not people but money. Even the sick are part of this throwaway culture. The Pope shared an example of a young person whom he met the day before and who wanted to commit euthanasia because of his sickness. The Pope reflected that he does not know what he said, but he hugged him and then left it in the hands of God. He noted that in the case of abortion, many women carry the cross of abortion and we need to help RomeServizioFotographico010young women with the help that is needed.

The bishops stated that there are many signs of hope including the opening of a new retreat centre, the initiation of a person for canonization, the Joy of the Gospel being very helpful, especially regarding the preparation of homilies (the pope added “to help people from falling asleep!”) The Pope noted that the Lord never leaves us alone. We need to take care of what is small to let it grow. The Pope mentioned how important it is for grandparents to pass on faith, to take up the dialogue between grandparents and grandchildren. He quoted Joel 3:2 “old people have dreams; young people prophesy.” We need to start again to dialogue.

We mentioned that Laudato si was well received. The document centers on the care of creation. We raised issues about the fishery and young people heading west and the effect that this was having on families. The Pope raised the problem of the liquidity of the economy and the large groups of unemployed in various countries, e.g., Spain and Crotia. He noted that changes in the environment cause unemployment, e.g., one country needs to reforest. The Pope mentioned young people going to cities (cities of misery) for the economic system focuses on the market rather than on human beings. He noted that young people often fall into dependencies, e.g., suicide, criminal activity, or going to ISIS.

The Pope reflected that these are the same issues in Netherlands and Germany. We need to work with young people, gather them and reflect on themes and walk with them together. Young people are ready to work on a project. We need to be like a goalkeeper who takes the ball from wherever it comes. Young people want to hear the joy of living.

On the other hand, some young people head toward fundamentalism. This is a rigid response and this does not seem to be normal for young people. We need to begin elsewhere realizing that young people do not find church interesting, but they are ready to do service. We have to take them where they are.

We spoke of the need to do pastoral planning, for there seems to be too many churches with a shortage of priests and parishioners. The Pope stated that at the heart of this revitalization is the Holy Spirit. The Pope says “I don’t know what to say about these situations, but the Holy Spirit is there.” This gives us trust and hope. The Pope reflected that during the Reformation there was corruption with priests, bishops and popes. This was a scandal and yet the Holy Spirit found ways to move forward. The Church is the Holy people of God; the Lord is there and we must work together. The Pope reflected on the parable of the wedding feast where those invited did not attend, but the Lord invited the good and the bad. The Pope reflected on his pastoral experience where parish priests brought people together to feed the homeless, yet the young people were not living according to the Gospel. When the priest was discouraged that the young people were not living the Gospel, the priest was reminded that the young people were having an experience of service, of prayer and of hearing the Word of God. The Pope reminded us that things often happen gradually. If the Lord has patience with us, then we need to be patient with others. God’s patience must be the root of pastoral patience. (Photo below: from Servizio Fotographico)

RomeBishopswithPopeWe thanked the Pope for the Joy of the Gospel, Amoris Latitiae and the Year of Mercy. Many lives were touched by the experience of mercy. The Pope noted that this decision emerged after 40-50 years of the teaching of Paul VI and John Paul II. We need to give thanks for the grace of God.

In the situation of the shorter process of annulments, we recognize that the bishop is the judge and when situations are clear and the parties are in agreement, then a shorter process could be used.

The Pope spoke about the preparation for marriage and the need for a catechumenate for marriage. This will bring catechesis on marriage and help to form couples for marriage in a culture where many couples are cohabitating. Many are living together for financial reasons or because of work situations and yet we need to help couples. We need to receive children for baptism without forcing parents to be married. Families who are wounded need to be welcomed, accompanied, receive discernment and be integrated into the life of the church according to the circumstances of each case. Pope Benedict spoke about the issue of couples having no faith and how that could affect the nullity of marriage.

Pope Francis spoke of those in irregular marriage situations and encouraged the bishops to listen to them. He said it is important to begin with Chapter 4 of Amoris Latitiae to begin with healthy marriages and then move to those that need healing. We are accustomed to black and white situations and yet many are grey.

The Pope is looking forward to the success of the Synod on Youth since the issue of young vocations is a serious problem in the church.

The Pope closed by giving us his blessing and asking for prayers for himself.

The entire encounter was an experience of reflecting on the pastoral situations which we experiencing in our dioceses.

Catholic News Service

Bishop Dunn was one of three Atlantic bishops interview by CNS.  

Photos: bottom left, Bishop Dunn awaiting the meeting with Pope Francis; bottom right, Bishop Dunn with Bishop Claude Champagne of Edmunston, NB and Bishop Peter J. Hundt of Cornerbrook and Labrador, Newfoundland during their interview for Catholic News Service. 












March 16, 2017 - Day Five

Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue 

At 1 pm, we visited the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue with Cardinal Tauran as the prefect.

Bishop Claude Champagne led the discussion highlighting the following issues: how to integrate Muslims; how do we respond when asked for places of prayer in Catholic institutions; foreign priests who have had bad experiences with Muslims often carry these experiences to our dioceses.

The cardinal stated that we need to welcome Muslims to our institutions. We need to open them to our culture and to encourage opportunities for education. Their image has been weakened by terrorism. We need to use respect and friendship to relate with Muslims. If some have had negative experiences, they need to be encouraged to try to be open to new experiences.

Vatican II called people to open the Church to the world, to try to promote a culture of peace and to promote dialogue. This is not syncretism for we need to do this in truth and charity, avoiding any forms of relativism. We need to avoid the attitude that all religious are equal. While we adore one God, we do this through different beliefs and different practices. We may come together in a prayerful atmosphere, but not come to pray together.

We need to depend on the CCCB office for education on interreligious dialogue and consider their new publication on Muslims. We shared the fact that some imams and bishops in Canada are getting together for dialogue. Fear is the greatest enemy of dialogue.

We had a discussion about the recent terrorist attack on the mosque in Quebec City when several Muslims were killed. We noted that Canadians spontaneously united to offer support, to express outrage about the terrorist act and to demonstrate that we stand for something else.

We discussed how we might educate people about dialogue and respect, so that these terrorist actions are avoided. This very difficult in light of the internet and social media. We need to keep alive these traditional values of dialogue and respect through catechesis, preaching and education. Above all, we need to educate about our Christian faith and at the same time, be informed about Islam.

Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life

On Thursday afternoon, we visited the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life with Cardinal Kevin Farrell and his officials representing Youth, Marriage and family. This new dicastery was established on September 1, 2016 from three Pontifical Councils for Laity, for family and for life. They are still in the process of becoming a new integrated dicastery.

Cardinal Farrell spoke of the nature of an ad limina visit. He stated that Pope Francis has changed the model of these visits and he wants the various offices to listen and learn from the bishops who visit. He wants the visits to be like a dialogue, rather than the officials teeling the bishops what must be done in dioceses. So the cardinal asked about our diocesan situations of the laity and the issues regarding human life and marriage.

Archbishop Currie led the discussion and raised the following issues: the understanding of a family today; the variety of forms of marriage preparation; issues of abortion and physician assisted suicide.

We spoke of the realities affecting laity in parishes where there are small parishes, our migration and a large percentage of foreign priests. We noted the drastic reduction in baptisms and marriages throughout the Atlantic area. We acknowledged that some adult formation is being done. We noted that urbanization has influenced our smaller communities and led to an outmigration from most of our dioceses. We noted the changes regarding social media and the greater expectations regarding homilies.

While people are present in our parishes, they often are not involved in Church. Many laity want to be involved for a period of time, but not for a long time. The circumstances of family life today make it difficult for lay people to be involved.

The Cardinal acknowledged that there are no easy solution to these problems and that there are no programs that can bring immediate results. We need to continue to educate lay people. After Vatican II, some lay people were involved in small ways and then got more involved. It is important to train lay people. The Cardinal reflected that when we have small parishes, we need to ask what is a viable parish. He noted that grouping parishes together is important for a vibrant liturgy. He acknowledged that the dynamics of training lay people cannot be a classroom model, but needs to realize the circumstances of family life today. We need to utilize social media, organize activities for people to be involved in. While there may be no pastoral programs that are that successful in addressing the needs, lay people need to have more fruitful contact by parish priests.

One of the officials spoke of the World Gathering of Families in Philadelphia in 2015 and the next one being held in Dublin in August 2018. These gatherings provide an opportunity for families to be in contact with other families. Another spoke of young people and World Youth Day (WYD). The next WYD is in 2019 in Panama. This gathering is a source of evangelization and is more than an event. He noted that the most important dimension is what is done before and after the event. The WYD could be a way to start again with youth people, but it is important to create a sense of movement. Young people need to be challenged. The Synod for Youth in 2018 will be an important event to hear from young people. A questionnaire will soon be on line to be answered by young people especially those not connected to Church. As well, a WYD is celebrated each year on Palm Sunday; it could be celebrated at that time in dioceses or at any time of the year.


March 15, 2017 - Day Four

Saints, Miracles and Being Open to the Holy Spirit 

(At left: Wednesday audience)WednesdayAudience

Congregation for the Causes of the Saints

Our first meeting today was at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. The prefect, Cardinal Amati, and his staff welcomed us. He presented us with a list of the various people who are being put forward for beatification and canonization from Canada: 33 people, the majority being from Quebec. He reviewed the process:

- the bishop becomes aware of the fact that people have a devotion to a particular person in the diocese; he writes the Congregation for a nihil obstat regarding this devotion
- the bishop, with the help of postulator, collects documents and testimonies and sends them to the Congregation
- the Congregation examines the testimony and the person may be considered a Servant of God; then a person is considered Venerable; after a miracle is attributed to the person, they may be Beatified; after another miracle, the person is Canonized.

Bishop Grecco led the discussion and he asked questions about a person who is being considered from PEI, namely, Bishop Bernard MacEachern, the first bishop of the diocese. Bishop Grecco noted that the people have a certain devotion to this bishop, which might be considered the theological foundation of the cause of a particular person. Sr. Nano Nagle, foundress of the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is Venerable and her cause is waiting for a miracle. Pope Francis considers a miracle as absolutely necessary for beatification, but the need for a miracle for canonization may be dispensed. Miracles are usually healings confirmed by medical experts. Both a scientific analysis and a theological analysis are done. In the case of a martyr, there is no need for a miracle for the person to be beatified, but there must be a miracle for canonization.

The documents that deal with this process include the Apostolic Constitution of John Paul II, Divinus perfectiones Magister, February 7, 1983 and the Instruction, Sanctorum Mater, May 17, 2007.

The prefect mentioned the difficulty with English speaking countries and their understanding of a miracle. Europe and South America seem to have a greater awareness of Mary and the saints. It seems that we need more catechesis in this area. The prefect reviewed a few recent causes being considered and noted that the fewest canonized saints are diocesan priests and lay people. This Congregation is a reminder that our Christian lives are rooted in the call to holiness for every Christian and the need to be open to the Holy Spirit. We need to be more aware of this call.

Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments

CongregationforDivineWorshipThe next visit was with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments with Cardinal Sarah as prefect and Archbishop Roche as secretary. Bishop Daniels led the discussion by inquiring about the issue of adaptation of rituals and about the recent commission to review Liturgicam authenticam, the instruction of 2001 that called for new translation principles for rituals and that led to the new Roman Missal.

Archbishop Roche noted that adaptation is the addition of something new into the ritual. Many times the appendices include prayers so that the normal use of a ritual is easy. The archbishop stated that there has been no official notification of the new commission because the Pope wanted to reserve it to himself. One of the questions it deals with involves the relationship between the Holy See and the conference of bishops in the issuance of ritual books.
The discussion continued about some of the issues with the new Missal: the difficulty in phraseology and some terms, e.g., chalice instead of cup, being unusual. It was noted that there is a concern for accuracy in translations in order to properly transmit the faith. As well, the new translation tries to keep scriptural allusions. We discussed the words of the Eucharist prayer (“for many”) and heard that this was a matter of being faithful to what Christ said (found in gospels and Paul), and that with its OT roots, it is inclusive, especially alluding to the prophet Isaiah. Cardinal Sarah urged us (and our priests) to be faithful to the texts.

We discussed the text for Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest and highlighted a number of issues:
- since the Liturgy of the Word and Communion has the same structure as the Mass, people often do not make the difference between the two
- perhaps Holy Communion would be better connected with the celebration of Morning or Evening Prayer
- having the distribution of Holy Communion seems to downplay the Liturgy of the Word
- there are issues of reserving the Blessed Sacrament for reasons different that what was originally understood for the reserved sacrament (for the sick and dying and for adoration)
- the sense of being a Eucharistic community is being lost
- focus on Holy Communion may be rooted in a consumer mentality
- in this discussion, it was also mentioned that the Good Friday celebration is reserved to a priest and not to be led by a deacon or lay person; if there is no priest available, another kind of service may be celebrated, e.g., the Way of the Cross; in the same discussion, it was emphasized that the Paschal Vigil should not be multiplied, but should bring parishioners together to form part of a larger community

The Cardinal urged us to recapture the meaning of the Mass. He acknowledged that there is an issue with faith in today’s world. We need to help people grow in faith, to realize that Christ is among us and that we need to face this with catechesis and prayer.

MassatStJohnLateranLater in the afternoon we visited the Basilica of St. John Lateran for mass. This is the diocesan cathedral for Rome and we celebrated Mass there. Once again I remembered the priests, deacons, religious and lay people of the entire diocese. The basilica was founded by Constantine prior to St. Peter’s and was rebuilt in the 18th century. The baptistry dates from the fourth century and remembers the baptism of Constantine in the 4th century. 
(Photo below: Paul Haring/Catholic News Service)

















March 14, 2017 - Day 3

The reality of our Bishops, Assisted Dying, Care of Creation 

romeCongforBishops001Congregation for Bishops

Today our first visit was with the Congregation for Bishops. This Congregation examines all that pertains to the establishment of dioceses, including any changes to dioceses. It also handles the preparations for the appointment of bishops and oversees the exercise of the ministry of bishops. Bishop Robert Harris led the discussion.

Each congregation has a prefect who is usually a cardinal and a secretary. So we met with Cardinal Ouellet and two other officials, the secretary, and Fr. Dermot Ryan. Cardinal opened the meeting by recalling his connections with Atlantic Canada, including his visit to the
Diocese of Antigonish and Chapel Island in August 2010, one of the last celebrations that he had before he left Canada to become the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops.

romeCongforBishops002His opening remarks spoke of the ad limina visit as

- a moment of pilgrimage to the tombs of Peter and Paul and to the Successor of Peter
- a moment of communion with the See of Peter
- an opportunity to renew bonds of fraternity and collegiality with the other bishops of the Atlantic provinces
- a time of dialogue for visiting bishops and the Roman offices
- an experience of the relationship between the Church universal and the particular church

He acknowledged that it is not easy to be a bishop in today’s world. He recognized the realities of the Atlantic bishops:
- the heavy blow of sexual abuse and its consequences
- the non-attendance of many Catholics at Sunday celebrations
- the need to rethink the pastoral organization of dioceses, with the realization that the church is still trying to struggle with this reality
- the social challenges around the issues of human life.

Bishop Robert raised several questions from our Episcopal Assembly: succession planning for dioceses; how do we prepare for our successors (several of our 10 Atlantic bishops are in their early 70s); should bishops come from the region or from other areas of Canada and what are the criteria.

Cardinal Ouellet spoke of succession planning and reminded the bishops that the ecclesiastical provinces suggest names to the nuncio, who prepares a list to be sent to the Congregation for Bishops. He noted that foreign priests could also be suggested, provided they are incardinated, have a certain stability of ministry, have citizenship and depending on the make-up of the diocese. We discussed the reality of foreign priests within Atlantic Canada and realized that foreign priests make up 20%-66% of the presbyterium of dioceses. We also discussed how these priests are integrated into the presbyterium and some of the issues that often arose (their language, culture, expectations of parishioners, how they deal with weather, their missionary spirit, etc.). We also spoke of the difficulty of getting Acadian bishops and priests.

Synod on Youth

The Cardinal noted that the bishop needs to have a vision for the whole diocese. He was hopeful that the Synod on Youth next year might be important to dialogue about issues for the future of the Church. As a point of interest, there are only 4 or 5 seminarians within the 10 dioceses of Atlantic Canada.

Assisted Dying

We discussed the issue of Assisted Dying. We noted that the Alberta bishops issued a document in September 2016 that dealt with the theological and canonical issues. The document from Atlantic Canada dealt with the pastoral concern for those who are experiencing end of life issues. From the media, it seems that 80% of Canadians (including Catholics) were in favor of the law that permitted Euthanasia and Assisted Dying. As a result, we need to emphasize the importance of palliative care. Some parishes have established a ministry of care and accompaniment to the elderly and the dying. We need to become more aware of the elderly. Our hope had been to assist families when faced with the issue of euthanasia. We need to acknowledge the fear of suffering, the fear of dying and the fact that there has been a real transformation of culture. We acknowledged that some governments will respect the Catholic nature of some health care institutions.

The question that the document on Assisted Dying raises is how do we maintain a pastoral presence without compromising the truth of the sacraments. There is always a need for discernment and a need to talk to persons about their faith and their desire for sacraments. If someone is asking for a sacrament, they normally do not want to make a statement against the church. The pastoral minister must always consider the interior disposition of the person, the internal change that might be present in a person and provide some kind of accompaniment to the person who is dying. The bishop must provide clear guidelines for difficult situations, acknowledging a deep merciful attitude and a deep discernment to consider the concrete circumstances of the person’s situation. We need to have an openness to the conversion that might be present even to the end of a person’s life. We need to offer a word of compassion and a recognition of the disposition of the person. The challenge with government in this issue is the question whether or not government will respect the freedom of conscience of medical personnel.

We spoke of the importance of the bishop’s witness to those in need and those in the most desperate situations. We need to be the compassionate presence of Christ. In this regard, the cardinal spoke of the importance of pastoral visitation of parishes.

The cardinal spoke of the reorganization of pastoral service within parishes and noted that a document is in preparation on this issue. He urged bishops to remain within Catholic ecclesiology ensuring that the identity of the priest as pastor is protected. Lay people may participate according to the charism that they may have. The language is important regarding being members of a team. We need to value the charism of the lay people, for the Holy Spirit is present in the community. When a situation is too clerical with too much focus on the priest, there is a need to enrich our pastoral vision so that pastoral teams can offer charisms and services. We need to recognize both the priest as pastor and that charisms are within the community.

We acknowledge that only 10-20% of Catholics attend church and many seniors support many churches. We need to highlight that the Eucharist is central. If evangelization is rich enough, it should be possible to gather parishioners for the Eucharist where Christ is present. In closing churches, we need to be attentive to the people’s sadness. We need to keep the Body of Christ alive and rekindle the flame of Christ. Some dioceses have considered a plan of recovery in each community, before any decision is made regarding closures.

We must remember that the Second Vatican Council taught that the church is a sacrament and a sign of salvation given for the world. The community is called to witness to the gift of salvation for the world. It must bear witness to a gift (or those who welcome the gift) and so become a light to the world. We need to restructure the way we understand the church rather than focus on the fact that we are losing people or we are diminishing.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Later in the morning we visited the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This congregation deals with any matter touching on faith or morals. Archbishop Anthony Mancini led the discussion and introduced the topics of a shortage of priests, the migration of peoples, the increasing abandonment of faith by parishioners, the issue of physician assisted suicide and Catholics in political life.

Cardinal Mueller spoke of the autonomy of the political life, that it must be for the common good and that it belongs to society (beginning with the family). The social doctrine of the church provides the principles of the faith. The political person needs to be aware of the dignity of the human person. Recent developments in the world show a new nationalism, a new imperialism (Russia), and some self-centeredness of nations. The church has a responsibility for nations and the Pope is often seen as the highest moral role in society. The church must reflect on the meaning of the witnessing of Christians in a political realm.

There was a discussion of the role of the Supreme Court and the role of Parliament. The cardinal thought that the bishops should enter a discussion with politicians. Excommunication is not an adequate solution. Lay voices should raise their voices regarding a discussion of the Catholic presence within universities of Atlantic Canada (do the best under the circumstances).

Within society today, what are the things that form people in their opinions; bishops have a small influence. There are problems when religion is kept private or only on a Sunday (Soviet Union did the same!). Canada has Christian roots but this is gone. Our role as bishops has changed significantly and it is unrealistic that we might think that we have much influence. Christendom is dead!

The Cardinal spoke again of the role of the politician. This person must focus not on a sectarian message or a Christian message, but on the common good. We need to be hesitant to impose excommunication or hold for the refusal of communion. We need to form young who might go into politics.

The Cardinal focused on the Atlantic Bishops’ statement on the Pastoral Reflection on Assisted Dying and spoke of the need to acknowledge moral evil. It is important to have a clearer statement regarding the Sacraments of Penance, Communion and Anointing of the Sick. We need to give a positive support to the families who are dealing with this issue. The issue of funerals was also discussed with the understanding that life is a gift from God.

Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development

rome006dicasteryOn Tuesday afternoon we visited the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. It was established in August of 2016, combining four other Pontifical Councils: Justice and Peace, Cor Unum, Migrants and Itinerant People and Health Care Workers. The Dicastery now focuses on the Gospel and the Social teaching of the Church in five areas: health care; justice and peace; human trafficking, migrants and refugees; charitable works; and the care of creation. The Pope is personally following the issues connected with human trafficking, migrants and refugees. The merger of the four offices into one is taking time with a staff of 63 people.

The name of the Dicastery comes from the focus of Pope Paul VI and his concern for the human person and human rights. It focuses on a new sense of humanism. It is an anomaly in the sense that it is not named as a congregation with a cardinal prefect nor as a pontifical council with a president archbishop; it is named as a dicastery with a cardinal perfect (perhaps reflecting a new vision of Pope Francis).

rome009CardinalTurksonWe met with Cardinal Turkson and several of his staff and the cardinal spoke of the need to have people from other countries on staff. The majority of the 63 people are lay people including many women.

Our discussion focused on the care of creation. This teaching was a small part of the teachings of Paul VI (natural ecology), John Paul II (human ecology), Benedict (social ecology and the ecology of peace) and Francis (integral ecology). Young people are attracted to this message. When Pope Francis encyclical on creation was issued, some countries focused on the issue of fossil fuels. The cardinal clarified that the Pope was not seeking the immediate closure of these fossil fuels; rather we need to prepare ourselves for the non use of fossil fuels. He mentioned that the pope had to weigh out the science associated with climate change, since it has several extremes.

He raised the issue of working with indigenous people and the delicate issue of an apology by the Holy Father as well as the questions coming from Australia, New Zealand and India.

Second Section of the Secretary of State

rome015groupThe final visit that we had on Tuesday was at the Second Section of the Secretary of State, the section that deals with foreign governments. Bishop Grecco led the discussion and he raised the issue of the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that called for Pope Francis to make a visit to Canada to apologize to the aboriginal people regarding the Residential Schools.

Archbishop Gallagher noted that Pope Benedict had apologized to the aboriginal people through Chief Phil Fontaine several years ago and Chief Fontaine was happy with this apology and spoke of how important this was for the aboriginal people. It seems that the Holy See would be happy to repeat the message of Pope Benedict. It is recognized that, while residential schools was a response to the need for education, there was serious abuse in these schools.

Regarding the Pope visiting Canada, it seems that Prime Minister Trudeau had visited the nuncio in Canada about a Papal visit. There was also discussions about the Doctrine of Discovery and the realization that a concern for the wrongs of the past is often a reflection on the wrongs of today. While there is a need to take responsibility, this often leads to a right to compensation.

The archbishop then reflected on the area of politics and the art of compromise that is often found there. The church needs to have a more pastoral approach to politicians, to cherish and nourish them, to assist Catholic politicians to form their conscience on Catholic teachings and then to encourage politicians to act according to their conscience. The era is over when a politician could be the puppet of the Catholic hierarchy. Politicians seem to be very despised in most countries. We need to work for the renewal of politics by encouraging young people to become involved and to engage with politicians. We need to demonstrate the truth of our faith and the church’s social teaching and encourage lay people to be involved in the political process, e.g., within trade unions. The example of refugees has been an area where the Church and the government seems to be working well together. We also spoke about Assisted Suicide and the importance of supporting palliative care. The example was mentioned of the CWL calling the government to be more involved in palliative care. It was mentioned that these campaigns should also be done with other denominations and religions. 


March 13, 2017 - Day 2

Visiting the Tomb of St. Peter  - Bishop Brian Dunn from Rome


Today was the fourth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election and many places connected with the Holy See are celebrating this day as a holiday.  This morning we experienced one of the highlights of this ad limina visit: we made a visit to the tomb of St. Peter for the celebration of Mass.  At mass we were reminded that the role of the bishop in coming to tomb of St. Peter’s involved being joined again to the center of unity within our faith.  We visit the tomb, professing our faith and reminding ourselves of the faith that has been passed on from St. Peter.  We remembered that Jesus praised St. Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I shall build my Church.”  Bishops gather at the tomb of St. Peter, not just for a personal visit, but to bring all the people of the diocese and to pray for the needs of the whole diocese.  I prayed for every priest, deacon and deacon candidate at the tomb.  I remembered each religious community, each individual parish and all who work in pastoral ministry in our diocese, asking that the Lord would bless us as we all respond to his call.

rome188In the afternoon we reviewed our schedule for tomorrow and considered the issues that need to be raised at the various dicastries (offices) of the Holy See.  Individual bishops have been assigned to begin the conversation at each dicastery.  As well, we spoke about our approach with people from the media who will be with us during the next few days.

All the bishops are staying at Domus Internationalis Paulus VI and the meals and accommodations are quite good.






March 12, 2017 - Day 1

"Getting lost and being found."  - Bishop Brian Dunn from Rome

rome 181 2

We arrived in Rome and many of us had to deal with jet lag. We walked to St. Peter’s Basilica, meandering through the streets and alleyways of Rome, getting lost and being found.

The experience of Rome is precisely this: getting lost amidst the over 1000 churches of Rome and then finding yourself “returning home by a different road.” We arrived at St. Peter’s and sat on the edge on the piazza in front of the Basilica of St. Peter’s. We were in fact “at the threshold of the tomb of St. Peter”, the meaning of an ad limina visit.

After supper we went for a stroll through Piazza Navone, a square build on Domitian’s Stadium (1st century). It is filled with tourists and painters. It has Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers, completed in 1651, with the statutes representing the four rivers symbolizing the four corners of the earth.


romeAtlBishops183On Sunday we celebrated Mass with the Gospel of the Transfiguration. It reminds us that the disciples needed this experience of Jesus to get through their difficulties. As well, Jesus needed this experience to know that he was the beloved Son, giving him the confidence to move further on his journey of being faithful to the Father. As bishops, we also pray that this ad limina would be an experince of Jesus transfigured for us in our ministry.

In the afternoon, some of us went to the Catacombs of Callistus. This was the burial place of the Christians from the 2nd to the 5th centuries. Several of the popes were buried there as well as St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music. One of the striking aspects of the Catacombs is the emphasis that the early Christians had on the sacredness of the human remains. They decorated their tombs with references to Jesus as the Good Shepherd or as the One who would raise them from Death.






March 11, 2017

In order for the Bishop of Rome to fulfill his special role of ensuring the unity of the church, he needs reliable and authoritative information on the actual situation of the various Churches, including their problems, initiatives undertaken, difficulties encountered, and the results of any projects that have been completed. Each bishop prepares a quinquennial report regarding at least twenty different areas of ministry within the diocese, e.g., priests, laity, consecrated life, vocations, consultative councils, finances, social justice issues, ecumenism, etc. This report makes an effort to identify the bishop’s experience regarding the principal issues concerning the diocese, how these issues have been addressed, and some of the conclusions that have emerged. Numerous people throughout the diocese provided some assistance in completing the report, which was sent to Rome last October. During the ad limina visit, the bishops visit numerous offices in Rome to discuss various sections of the report. These visits will take place from March 13 to 21. Please pray for Bishop Dunn as he makes his ad limina visit to Rome. 


March 10, 2017

Five questions: a conversation with Bishop Brian Dunn on ad limina

Bishop Brian Dunn will be among the 10 Atlantic Canadian Roman Catholic bishops meeting with Pope Francis and other papal officials during their ad limina  visit March 11-22, 2017. This is the first ad limina for Bishop Dunn and the first in a decade for the Diocese of Antigonish.

1. What is an ad limina visit?

The Latin term ‘ad limina’ refers to making a visit to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. A quinquennial ad limina visit  is the reporting of bishops to the Holy See on issues in their dioceses and archdioceses. The Atlantic bishops will visit as a group in March.

2. What does an ad limina mean for our diocese?

The theology behind the ad limina  highlights unity within the Church. These visits strengthen the relationship between the Holy See and the dioceses and archdioceses worldwide. The two pillars of ad limina  are collegiality and primacy: collegiality among bishops and the regions they represent, while acknowledging the primacy of the Holy See.  This is my first ad limina visit and I am open to what we can learn, and what we can share in terms of our own experiences. 

3. With whom will you meet? Will you speak directly with Pope Francis?

The Atlantic bishops as a group will have a two-hour audience with Pope Francis on March 16. The remaining time is filled with meetings hosted by various papal offices.  There are 25-30 offices and we cannot meet with them all, so as a group the Atlantic bishops selected areas of priority and our schedule reflects that. There are also masses at each of the four basilicas: St. Peter, Saint Paul Outside the Walls, St. John Patern and Saint Mary Major.  These will be special celebrations.  

4. What issues will you discuss?

Each diocese submits a quinquennial report months prior to the ad limina. Papal offices use these reports to prepare for our visit. We don’t know exactly what will be discussed, but I expect issues to include euthanasia, sexual abuse and the resulting responsible ministry protocols, pastoral zoning, the diaconate, and possibly some of our newer initiatives, such as Family Life, Youth and Communications. Our diocese has been through a great deal in the past 10 years. There is much to discuss and some of it is difficult to bring up again, but it is an opportunity to learn from our own experiences and those in other jurisdictions. It is also a chance to move forward on our vision and realities for the future. Declining numbers of priests and parishioners are not issues unique to our diocese; it may be helpful to hear of how other areas are meeting these challenges.

5. What else will you do when in Rome?

The Atlantic bishops meet as a group, usually in Halifax, but this year will meet in Rome following the ad limina. While there, I’ll be sharing updates for the blog on our website, and will be one of three Atlantic bishops selected to interact with the media on the group’s behalf. Once all the meetings are done, I will take a few vacation days to visit Sicily and surrounding areas. It is a beautiful region, and the opportunity to visit does not happen often.


From: This Month in the Diocese, March 2017. View or download your copy here. 


March 4, 2017

The visit ‘ad limina Apostolorum’ is designed as an opportunity for each bishop to strengthen his own responsibility as a successor of the Apostles and to strengthen his bonds of being in communion with the Successor of Peter. 
The two basic purposes for the visit include: 
a) to venerate the tomb of the Holy Apostles, Peter and Paul 
b) to meet with the successor of Peter, the Bishop of Rome.

An important element of the visit involves a visit with the Holy Father and a discussion with him about questions concerning pastoral ministry within the Church today. This meeting with take place on Thursday, March 16.

The ad limina visit usually takes place every five years; however, it has been much longer than five years since the Bishops of Canada have made a visit, due to special Jubilee Years when there are no ad limina visits. All the bishops of Atlantic Canada will be making their visit together from March 11 to March 22.

Please pray for Bishop Dunn as he makes this ad limina visit to Rome, and follow his blog posts which he will be sharing here during his ad limina visit.