I am trying to keep close tabs on the Canadian bishops' Ad Limina visits to Rome, ever since my interest was sparked back in March by a dissenting appeal for reformed morality from the Canadian Religious Conference (see these three posts).
The Pope met with the bishops of Quebec earlier this month, and the Atlantic bishops are there now. Ontario sends its bishops in September, and the Western bishops will go in October. See the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops' site for the exact schedule.
The Atlantic bishops presented comments delivered by Antigonish Bishop Lahey, the central theme of which is that the faithful in Atlantic Canada "live in a society that is increasingly affected by globalization, a globalization that is not merely economic but increasingly socio-cultural." This is due to the availability of the same media everywhere, which presents an almost universally secular message, causing the faithful to become uncatechized. Accordingly, the bishops are making "evangelization and catechesis [their] first priority."
I love the Pope's response. He recognizes that the faithful have lost hope, and:
One of the more dramatic symptoms of this mentality, clearly evident in your own region, is the plummeting birth rate. This disturbing testimony to uncertainty and fear, even if not always conscious, is in stark contrast with the definitive experience of true love which by its nature is marked by trust, seeks the good of the beloved, and looks to the eternal (cf. Deus Caritas Est, 6).
In other words, if the Atlantic bishops want to effectively catechize, they must first encourage the faithful to breed by promoting trust in God's goodness and love. I can definitely confirm the need to believe my own material & emotional needs will be met before jumping out and having a large family. That trust in God is what is missing in a lot of Catholic communities in this country.
He also says that to educate the faithful effectively, the bishops must ensure that "the intrinsic relationship between the Church's Magisterium, individuals' faith, and testimony in public life is preserved and promoted." In other words, don't allow dissenting doctrines to steer you off course theologically or morally. Hold fast to the teachings of the Church. Only in truth is freedom found. Only in freedom can love flourish.
The Pope also specifically calls for young adults in Atlantic Canada to take on the challenge of catechizing the youth. "Their example of Christian witness to those younger than themselves will strengthen their own faith, while bringing to others the happiness that flows from the sense of purpose and meaning in life which the Lord reveals."
The theme of the Pope message (FR, EN) to the Quebec bishops was one of Eucharistic promotion, specifically calling for more adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The messages he's sending to Canada can no doubt be applied to all our communities, but I'm eager to see what insights he has for the West.