Fr. Raymond de Souza
Returning faith to the public square is a goal of the Convivium Project, launched by Cardus, Canada's leading Christian think tank.
The flagship of the project is Convivium, the magazine. Convivium means living together. It also implies a certain good cheer and hospitable spirit, as found at a festive banquet - a convivium.
Living in a secular culture that shoves faith to the margins of public life, and after years of writing his weekly newspaper column for the National Post and contributing regularly to the WCR and other Catholic newspapers, Father Raymond de Souza discovered "there is a real desire in our country and in our culture for places that take the role of faith seriously."
A 28-page preview issue of Convivium was released in October. The official western launch of the bimonthly magazine was held in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver during the first week of March. The March premiere issue is 48 pages.
"A magazine, at its heart, creates a community if it's successful," said de Souza Convivium's editor-in-chief.
The project is aimed at being an authoritative voice for the role of religion in Canadian society. They want to challenge the secularist myths being taught today. They want faith immersed in all aspects of culture, including politics, arts, economics and sports.
Ordained a Catholic priest in 2002, de Souza is pastor at Sacred Heart of Mary Parish on Wolfe Island in Eastern Ontario, and teaches at Queen's University in the economics department.
He remains convinced that religious faith is critical to Canadian common life.
"We live in a very interesting time in regard to the public question of religion. A symposium was held at Queen's University. The topic of the panel discussion was 'Why does religion persist when its demise has been predicted?'" said de Souza.
Every generation of people, even as far back as the 1850s, has forecast the end of religion. As people become more technologically advanced and knowledgeable, the consensus opinion was that religion would recede in importance – yet it's still around.
"During this panel, there was never any discussion on this discipline persisting because maybe it has something useful to say," said de Souza.
Like other departments at the university, including literature and sciences, many people take religion seriously.
"Why are religious questions hanging around? In Canada, just in the last few weeks, in three provinces, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, there have been serious debates about education, precisely on questions of truth and parental rights, conscience and religious liberty," said de Souza.
A rally at the Alberta Legislature was held March 5 in protest of controversial changes to the Education Act. In Quebec, the debate is over students' mandatory attendance in ethics-religion classes. In Ontario, the debate is how views against homosexual behaviour might violate rules against bullying.
Global politics have changed as well. Less important lately are tax rates and trade policies, whereas social, moral and religious issues are in the forefront. A famous example is Pope John Paul's role in ending communism in Poland and eventually all of Europe.
"Another major trend that has reshaped and restructured global politics and foreign affairs is the rise of militant Islam, which dates back to 1979 when Ayatollah Khomenei returned to Iran. Today we read about Iran almost every day, which is a direct consequence of a religious revolution that took place in 1979," said de Souza.
The Convivium Project also includes public lectures, intellectual formation and seminars for those who are strengthening faith in our common life.