A fellow Canadian wearing a red hat

By  Catholic News Service
  • April 20, 2008
Among all the red hats and sashes trailing after the Pope at his various events here in the United States was one who is a familiar figure to Canadians. It was Cardinal Marc Ouellet, archbishop of Quebec and primate of the Catholic Church in Canada.

I caught up with the cardinal on Sunday, April 20, after the Pope's visit to Ground Zero. Cardinal Ouellet had arrived in New York on Friday, expressly to hear the speech at the United Nations. He had also been at the Mass in St. Patrick's Cathedral the next day and then went out to St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers to participate in the youth festival. He was just getting ready to head off to Yankee Stadium for the final papal Mass.

The Cardinal also had a chance to join a private luncheon for the Pope, held at the residence of Cardinal Edward Egan, archbishop of New York.

"I was impressed myself by the enthusiasm of the seminarians and young people," out at St. Joseph's, he said. The Pope, "took time to let the young people express what was in their hearts."

And what was in their hearts was joy. The Pope walked up and down the stage and walked out on the stage extensions, all the while basking in the cheers and applause of the more than 30,000 people gathered to see him on the seminary grounds.

Overall, Cardinal Ouellet was pleasantly impressed by the friendliness and faith of the American people. In particular, he noticed that they love the papacy.

"They have a great faith in the Pope — be it John Paul or Benedict — they have great faith in the Pope."

He was also encouraged by the excitement in the streets. He was staying at a hotel right across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral and ran into people who were in town to see Benedict.

"I admire these people," he told me. "They were young and old people, who have been travelling far, just to come to see the Pope on the street for a moment."

The cardinal thought the Pope's speech to the United Nations really needs much more attention than it has received so far. He argued that it was an important and profound speech on the relationship between faiith and political action, whether of individuals or states. He said the Pope had offered sound principles in his argument for human rights and he hoped the United Nations would reflect further on this speech.

He admitted, however, that the Pope's reasoning is very dense and needs careful analysis.

"It's very dense," he said. "I needed three readings myself to really grasp its essentials. But it is worth rereading and rereading."

Cardinal Ouellet hoped Canadians would take a lesson from the American response to the Pope. He urged Canadians to have confidence in their faith and pride in their church.

The Cardinal also took some time to work up some enthusiasm among the American prelates for the upcoming International Eucharistic Congress, to be held in Quebec City in June. He brought along the Congress' general secretary, Msgr. Jean Picher, to meet with other church officials to generate support.

"Just my presence here was a reminder," of the next great church event being held this year in North America, he said.

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