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Trudeau joins religious leaders at Mass celebrating Montreal's 375th birthday
MONTREAL – Canadian religious leaders were joined by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other dignitaries at a commemorative high Mass at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal May 17 to mark the founding of Montreal 375 years ago as a Roman Catholic religious colony.
Prominent among the celebrants were the Canadian Primate Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto and the papal nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi. Pope Francis, who declined an invitation to come to Montreal for the celebrations, sent greetings.
Church bells pealed throughout the city prior to the Mass, which was celebrated by Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine with participation from more than two dozen bishops and approximately 400 priests, deacons and members of religious communities.
Trudeau, who supports a woman’s right to abortion and whose government recently began funding abortion in the developing world, received holy communion from Lepine.
The celebrations included the participation of indigenous communities in recognition of the city being built on unceded Mohawk territory.
The message from Pope Francis gave “thanks to the Lord for the faith and the hope that led men and women from France to found Ville-Marie,” and he encouraged “all inhabitants of Montreal to build bridges between men, respecting their differences and thus contributing to the building of a more just and fraternal society.”
Trudeau, speaking at the pulpit from which he gave the eulogy in 2000 for his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, praised Montreal for its diversity.
He repeated the theme at a wreath-laying ceremony in Place d’Armes outside the basilica honouring the city’s founders, Paul Chomedey Sieur de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance. In founding the original settlement called Ville Marie de Montreal in 1642, their mission was to convert the native population to Christianity.
“The fourth largest francophone city in the world, Montreal is a hallmark of the central role Canada’s francophone community has played and continues to play in building our country,” Trudeau said. “We also recognize the indigenous people who originally inhabited this island and knew it by its indigenous name. Thanks in great part to its francophone and indigenous roots, Montreal represents the best of Canada’s openness, diversity and inclusiveness.
“Today, Montreal is home to people from all over the world who speak different languages, practice different religions and represent different cultures. This diversity sets the city apart as an example of pluralism for the rest of the world.”
Chief Ghislain Picard of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador reminded those gathered outside the church that when Europeans arrived, the “unofficial founders” of the island called it Tiohtiake.
“It is the name the Mohawk gave it, because it was an important territory, a place for gathering and trade for several First Nations,” he said.
As part of the celebrations Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre declared the city to be “The Metropolis of Reconciliation.” Coderre acknowledged that the treatment of the First Nations has been ignored throughout the centuries in the history of Montreal. The city plans to redesign its flag to reflect their importance to the fabric of the community.
The pealing of church bells began prior to the Mass at St. Joseph’s Oratory atop Mount Royal. The joyous sound soon rang out across the archdiocese as other churches began to ring their bells in unison as an invitation to Montrealers to share a “moment of joy and reflection.”