Bienvenue à l’Église Vieille Catholique de la Colombie-Britannique
The Old Catholic Church
Churches have declared themselves to be Old Catholic in various times and places. The first group of Churches to proclaim themselves Old Catholic appeared in the Netherlands in the 18th Century when the Dutch Catholics extended sympathy and hospitality to French Catholics who were denied religious liberty in France. The father of the episcopate of Old Catholicism of Utrecht is a French Bishop by the name of Dominique Marie Varlet (1678 -1742). He was the Episcopal Vicar of the Québec Bishop and landed in Fort Louis, Louisiana, on 6 June 1713, as a missionary and was in Québec from 21 September 1717 to 2 October 1718. He returned to Europe for his consecration as a Coadjutor Bishop of Babylon (modern day Baghdad, Iraq). On the way to his diocese in 1719, while in Amsterdam at the request of a rebellious clergy of Holland, he administered the sacrament of confirmation to 604 persons, who were not able to receive the sacrament due to quarrels between the Church in Utrecht and Rome. Because of his action Rome suspended him of his jurisdiction. In 1721 he came back to Holland. In a letter addressed to Bishop Varlet (13 October 1724) the canons of Utrecht asked him to consecrate Bishop Cornelius van Steenhoven. On 15 October 1724, the consecration took place in Amsterdam. When the new Archbishop of Utrecht wrote to Pope Benedict XIII to tell him of his consecration, he received the answer on 22 February 1725 in the papal brief “Qua Sollicitudine”, excommunicating him, Bishop Varlet, and those who took part and participated in his election.
Since then the Church of Utrecht is independent of the See of Rome. Recognized by the state under the name “Kerk genootschap der Oud-Bisschoppelijke Clerezij” in 1912; a sum of 12,000 florins was given by the state to the Church at that time. Old Catholics have always held that under Christ, one finds perfect freedom. Other Churches joined them in 1870 when the first Vatican Council proclaimed the doctrine of Papal Infallibility. Since only Christ is infallible, many Churches in Austria, Germany, Bavaria, and Switzerland, realizing their position was closer to Utrecht than to Rome, proclaimed themselves Old Catholic. Now Old Catholic Churches are established in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Old Catholic Church of British Columbia
The Old Catholic Church of British Columbia, with its Church of Saint Raphael’s, established in 1921, is an independent communion, which derives its Apostolic Succession from the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht, thus assuring the Catholic validity of its rites, sacraments and clerical orders. After more than five years of correspondence, inquiries, testimonies, etc. the Bishops of the Utrecht Union at the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Münchenwhiler, Switzerland from 26 – 31 March 2006, voted and granted the Old Catholic Church of BC Status with conditions for a period of 6 years (see the official communiqué of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference at: http://www.utrechter-union.org/english/communiques/ibk2006-eng.pdf). In a letter dated 6 July 2006 addressed to Bishop Gérard LaPlante, Archbishop Joris Vercammen, President of the Utrecht Union, welcomed the Old Catholic Church of BC into the Utrecht Union expressing himself in the following words “…We thank the Lord for inviting us to open our communion and we believe you are a gift to all of us.” Bishop Gérard LaPlante attended the 29th Old Catholic Congress in Freiburg, Germany from 7 -11 August 2006, representing our Church. Later he was invited to attend as a member the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference in Wislikofen, Switzerland, from 4-8 February 2007, accompanied by Fr. Claude Lacroix, as our representative of Québec. Due to difference of opinion at that conference, we are no longer part of the said Union. In the 1930’s the Rev. Fr. Henry Barney O.M.I. (Oblate Order of Mary Immaculate, Roman Catholic missionary order) joined the Church. Due to his dedication, hard work, and compassion, the Church grew and was established on a permanent basis in BC. Other Priests followed for the continuation of the missionary work of the Church, the teaching of the Holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and its message of faith, hope, and love, without distinction of race, creed, colour. We have the seven sacraments. We do not receive any grants or funds from municipal, provincial or federal governments. We are duly registered with the federal government (Ottawa) and in the provinces of BC and Quebec. Since our existence we have provided room and board for hundreds of people in need, helped them to find work, and put them back on their feet to be self sufficient emotionally and financially. Our clergy are not paid. We hold secular jobs for a livelihood. Celibacy is optional. The majority of people attending our church are very different ethnically, socially, religiously. All are welcome. We do many funerals where there is only the Priest and the departed. We feel that any human being should be treated equally in death and with respect. We bring sacraments to those who are in need and shut-ins. We also visit patients in our city hospitals, who for whatever reason, have lost or abandoned their faith or have none. During all the year, people come at the door to secure food, and we provide them with sandwiches, soup, etc. Members of the Old Catholic Church are joyful Christians, happily sharing their glorious Faith with the despairing souls of those who have never known the joy of Christ. A love for Christ, warm commitment, and devotion to Jesus Christ are the criteria for membership in the Old Catholic Church.