‘Every person is called to stand for life’: Ottawa’s new bishop on his commitment to pro-life cause

Pope Francis appointed Fr. Christian Riesbeck, a member of the dynamically-orthodox Companions of the Cross community, as Auxiliary Bishop for Ottawa on Tuesday.
By Colin Kerr

By Colin Kerr

OTTAWA, Ontario, January 8, 2014 ( – Pope Francis has appointed a new auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Ottawa who has been active in the pro-life cause for many years in Canada and the U.S.

Bishop-elect Christian Riesbeck, 43, a member of the dynamically-orthodox Companions of the Cross community of priests, is an avid supporter of the 40 Days for Life campaign and a frequent attendee of the National March for Life on Parliament Hill.

“Every person is called to stand for life,” the bishop-elect told LifeSiteNews by e-mail Wednesday. “As the newly appointed Auxiliary Bishop-elect of Ottawa, I intend to join with the Canadian bishops in taking a leadership role in promoting the Gospel of life and showing particular love and concern for the most defenseless among us.”

Riesbeck, who was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Marcel Gervais in 1996, will assist Archbishop Terrence Prendergast in shepherding some 400,000 Catholics in 110 parishes in Canada’s capital, the Archdiocese announced Tuesday morning.

In his statement to LifeSiteNews, the bishop-elect highlighted his personal commitment to the pro-life cause. “In my ministry as a priest I have always been committed to promoting and defending the sanctity of life from conception to natural death,” he said. “I have been a member of Priests for Life (U.S.A. and then Canada) for many years. I have supported the 40 Days for Life initiatives, participated in Canada’s National March for Life and spoken on the Gospel of life in my preaching.”

Archbishop Prendergast emphasized this aspect of the Bishop-elect’s ministry in an e-mail to LifeSiteNews, stating that Riesbeck’s pro-life credentials were “quite evident.”

Rev. Thomas Lynch, National Director for Priests for Life Canada, echoed this sentiment. The Bishop-elect “has always been a member and supporter of PFL USA and PFL Canada,” the priest said. “He attended the 2013 symposium [hosted by Priests for Life Canada] and has been a constant voice in his parishes and positions for the pro-life cause.”

“PFL Canada is very happy to have another energetic voice for the movement in our Canadian episcopacy and we welcome him warmly in his new position,” Rev. Lynch added.

Reflecting the commitment of the Companions of the Cross to evangelization, the bishop-elect said that “promoting and defending the dignity of the human person is part of the work of the New Evangelization.”

“As people encounter Christ and are transformed, they become eager to contribute to the building up of a civilization of love and a culture of life,” he explained.

Riesbeck was born in Montreal on February 7, 1970, and holds a licentiate in canon law from St. Paul’s University in Ottawa. He served in parish ministry in Ontario for a few years before becoming pastor of Queen of Peace parish in Houston, Texas from 1999-2008. He has since served as Chancellor for the Archdiocese of Ottawa and Assistant General Superior of the Companions of the Cross.

Although no date has been officially set for Riesbeck’s episcopal ordination, Archbishop Prendergast said planning will begin this week, and is tentatively expecting it to be held on March 19th, the day Catholics celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Archdiocese of Ottawa’s principal patron.

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