CCCB will hold first-ever virtual Plenary Assembly in September because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions

The 2018 CCCB Plenary focused on the release of updated national guidelines for the protection of minors. (File photo - Canadian Catholic News - CCN)

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – One of the most important annual gatherings of the Catholic Church’s leadership in Canada will become an online event this year as the 2020 Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) Plenary Assembly will not be held in Cornwall this September as originally planned, but instead will be the first ever  “virtual Plenary Assembly.”

The decision to make the annual Plenary Assembly an online event this year is because of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic health and safety concerns that have until recently closed most Catholic churches across the country.

“In consideration of the measures in place surrounding COVID-19, the uncertainty of the current times, and for the health and safety of all involved, the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to adapt how this year’s gathering would be held,” CCCB communications coordinator Lisa Gall told the Canadian Catholic News.

“This year’s Plenary will be held in September as planned, but it will be held virtually by videoconference much like a number of other episcopal conferences have elected to do in recent months,” she said of the assembly that is planned for Sept. 21-25, 2020.

CCCB president and Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon told the Canadian Catholic News in a statement that as the Catholic Church has had to move much of its operations online in recent months because of the pandemic the church has become more at ease using technology for church matters and it also became clear that holding a virtual Plenary Assembly was possible as a way to protect the health and safety of assembly participants.

“Of course, such a conference is no complete substitute for the in-person Plenary as the personal contact between bishops is very important,” Archbishop Gagnon said. ”But under these circumstances we are fortunate to at least have this technology available to us.”

“The agenda, of course, will need to be greatly simplified under these current conditions so that we will be able to deal with the most important matters and avoid the kind of ‘screen fatigue’ that many are speaking about lately,” he said.

Gall said that details of the virtual Plenary Assembly agenda will be made public after planning for the September assembly are finalized.