Montreal interfaith pioneer Victor Goldbloom with Deacon Anthony Mansour, the Director of the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism. Photo courtesy of Fr. Murray Watson

Pope knights Canadian Jew and 96-year-old Jesuit

By  Fr. Murray Watson, Catholic Register Special
  • May 16, 2012

MONTREAL - It is rare to meet a real-life knight today. It is even rarer to meet someone knighted by the Pope. So it is truly extraordinary to meet a papal knight — who is also Jewish.

Canada can now boast of one Jewish papal knight. Montreal interfaith pioneer Victor Goldbloom was welcomed into the Vatican’s Order of St. Sylvester on May 10 at a reception organized by the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism.

Ninety-six-year-old Jesuit Father Irénée Beaubien also received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Pope Benedict XVI for his lifetime of work in ecumenism. The evening’s formal presentations at the Montreal archbishop's residence were complemented by choral settings of the Psalms in French and English to melodies from various Eastern Christian churches.

Goldbloom, 88,  is a well-known public figure in Montreal and Quebec. A distinguished pediatrician, he also served four terms in the Quebec Legislative Assembly between 1966 and 1979, becoming the first Quebec Jew to hold a provincial cabinet position. From 1991 to 1999, he was a federal Commissioner for Official Languages.

His papal knighthood, however, was for his unwavering leadership in Jewish-Christian dialogue. Montreal's Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte personally recommended Goldbloom for the honour. For the last four decades, Goldbloom has been an active leader in interfaith outreach on behalf of the Jewish community. He was president of the International Council of Christians and Jews from 1982 to 1990. Since 1990 he has been a Jewish representative on the Canadian Christian-Jewish Consultation and Christian-Jewish Dialogue of Montreal, both of which he currently chairs.

Goldbloom was named to the Order of Canada in 1983, to the National Order of Quebec in 1991, and promoted to a Companion of the Order of Canada in 2000.

Beaubien, who is also a member of the Order of Canada, was unable to attend for health reasons.

The Jesuit ecumenist established Montreal’s Canadian Centre for Ecumenism and its flagship, bilingual journal, Ecumenism. Beginning in the 1950s, Beaubien began building bridges between Protestants and Catholics in the 1950s, well before Vatican II.

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