"My family: A school of mercy" is the theme of the traditional National Week for Life and the Family that will be celebrated in Canada from 8 to 15 May 2016, on the initiative of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). Of course, the choice of the theme is linked to the Jubilee Year proclaimed by Pope Francis. The primary information is available on the CCCB's website
. However, to learn more about the National Week for Life and the Family, we are giving the floor to H.E. Msgr. Paul-André Durocher, Archbishop of Gatineau, Quebec. As President emeritus of the CCCB, Pope Francis called him to participate in the Extraordinary General Meeting of the Synod of Bishops on "The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization," in October 2014.
- How did the National Week for Life and the Family originate? Who was the initiator? Was it intended to respond to a particular situation?
Msgr. Durocher: The National Week for Life and the Family was proposed to the dioceses of Canada by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Plenary Assembly of the CCCB, at the request of its members, created an ad hoc committee for the pastoral ministry of life and the family in 2009. The following year, the committee proposed a comprehensive plan for this ministry at the national level. Among the suggestions was a national week of life and family. At that time, Quebec's dioceses celebrated a family week of family each year to coincide with the UN's International Family Day, celebrated every May 15th. Moreover, pro-life marches had been organized for several years, in different Canadian cities, early in May, the most important one taking place in Ottawa. The ad hoc committee esteemed that the timing was good for the annual celebration of a Week dedicated to the two issues of life and family. This proposal was ratified during the CCCB's Plenary Assembly in 2011. The first National Week was celebrated in 2013.
- What characterizes this Week? Is it celebrated throughout Canada?
Msgr. Durocher: The Week is proposed by the CCCB, but its implementation depends on each diocese. In the province of Quebec, the dioceses have the habit of sharing the work of the material preparation for the animation. Following this example, the English-speaking dioceses agreed to prepare the material in English for that linguistic sector of our episcopal conference on the occasion of the first three National Weeks. This year, the Canadian Organization for Life and Family will prepare the material for the animation in both languages. Each diocese can adapt this material according to its resources, and its cultural and ecclesial situation.
- The next Week will take place in the context of the current debate on the legalization of euthanasia in Canada: What is the state of mind today of the Catholics facing this situation? Will the topic receive special mention?
Msgr. Durocher: The theme for 2016 was chosen to correspond with the Jubilee Year: The family, the school of mercy. Undoubtedly, this will also provide an opportunity to reflect on the accompaniment of the dying in the perspective of mercy, in contrast with the strictly technological approach represented by biomedical euthanasia.
- What is the situation of the pastoral ministry of the family in Canada today? What are its strengths? What could be improved?
Msgr. Durocher: For a complete answer, these questions must be addressed to every diocese in Canada. It should be remembered that more than a thousand Canadians took part in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, that the participation in the discussions in view of the synodal assemblies on the Family was remarkable, and that many dioceses have created their own council of pastoral ministry of the family.