The Christian Pavilion at Expo 67 was a ground-breaking achievement for ecumenism in Canada. Eight major Christian denominations in Canada joined together to produce exhibits for the pavilion — Roman Catholic, United, Anglican, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist, Greek-Orthodox and Ukrainian Greek-Orthodox. Wikimedia Commons

The Register Archive: Expo 67 brought Canada to world stage

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  • April 29, 2018

It was 51 years ago, on April 28, that Expo 67 opened in Montreal, ushering in a summer of celebration for Canada’s 100th birthday. The World’s Fair featured pavilions from 60 nations showcasing “Man and His World.” More than 50 million visitors passed through the grounds over six months, including familiar faces like Queen Elizabeth, Jackie Kennedy and Bing Crosby. In this editorial from April 22, 1967, The Catholic Register put the expectations of Expo into perspective:

Expo 67 is on the launching pad, ready for the blastoff. If all goes according to plan, it will be unveiled next Thursday morning for about 7,000 representatives of government, the participating nations and the mass media. The following day it will be open to the public and is expected to draw millions of visitors through the five months of its operation.

It is a spectacular way of marking the centenary of Canada. It will point up the creditable development of this country through the past hundred years, a development of which we citizens may well be proud. Reflecting what has been accomplished by the two major founding races, in co-operation if not always in complete harmony, Expo serves as a symbol of Canadian unity.

At the same time, it poses a challenge to Canadians of English and French descent, and those of all other racial backgrounds, to increase that harmony and co-operation through a second century, in order that our progress may go on at an accelerated pace. As Tennyson said, “What they have done (should be) but earnest of the things that they shall do.” With the resources and the scientific knowledge which we now have, the progress of the second century should far outstrip that of the first.

A world exhibition of the magnitude of Expo is a great undertaking for a country with as small a population as Canada. The readiness with which so many other nations seized the opportunity to display their wares at Montreal is a clear indication of the importance which Canada has assumed on the international scene. Our prestige abroad has been earned, especially since World War Two, but our honest diplomatic efforts to promote peace and harmony between other nations; they accepted Canadian leadership because it was exercised by trustworthy men and had no imperialistic overtones.

This presents another challenge to Canadians during the next few months. Our reputation will stand or fall according to the reception we give the people from other countries who will visit Canada this year. We must welcome them and treat them generously and courteously. This is a responsibility, not only for the staff at Expo, but for us all, wherever we may be receiving visitors from outside the country.

A unique feature of this exhibition, one which was never undertaken before, is the Christian Pavilion. It stands as a symbol of the ecumenical spirit which is abroad in the world in the past few years and which has brought about an unprecedented measure of collaboration between the Christian churches. Instead of each church calling attention to its particular contribution to Canadian history, they have combined in an effort to impress on each visitor, whatever may be his religious background or lack of it, the impact of God on the life of man.

This presents a further challenge to all Expo visitors, whether Canadians or not. It is a vivid reminder that, whether we recognize Him or not, God cannot be dismissed from our lives. A trip through this pavilion is a must for every Expo visitor. We need to approach it with open mind and reflect deeply on the lessons which it is calculated to teach. We are reminded of our Christian heritage and of our duty to see that it is preserved and further developed.

(To explore more from The Catholic Register Archive, go to catholicregister.org/archive.)

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