The front and back of the Holy Door to be installed at la Basilique-cathedrale- Notre-Dame de Quebec. Photo courtesy of the archdiocese of Quebec

Quebec Holy Door marks roots of faith in Canada

  • December 8, 2013

Quebec Archbishop Gérald Lacroix hopes the Holy Door being installed at la Basilique-cathedrale Notre-Dame de Quebec will draw more than a million North Americans closer to their roots and faith.

“The idea is not to just come to the door,” said Lacroix. “People love to go to the roots of their faith. We get over a million visitors already a year in our cathedral (and) we’ll certainly get a lot more.”

The installation of the door, which was to be completed by Dec. 8, signals the start of the cathedral’s 350th anniversary, which will be marked as a jubilee year in the diocese. On that day a special Mass is to be held during which Lacroix will bless the door.

“I will be the first to go through it and I will bless it on the evening of Dec. 8 as we open the jubilee,” said the archbishop. “It will remain as a witness of this 350th. It is a sensitive thing, very tangible and people like that; it has stirred up so much interest it is unbelievable.”

It is to remain unlocked for visitors to pass through until Dec. 28, 2014.

Sculpted by Quebec artist Jules Lasalle, the door depicts an open-armed Jesus on the exterior with an image of Mary on the interior side. Lacroix said he couldn’t be happier with the artist’s renditions of the holy figures, specifically that of Christ.

“The open arms say a lot, that is what the Church is called to be, open arms to humanity, to everyone,” he said. “Pope Francis is inviting us so much to come back to Jesus, to recentre our lives and found our lives on the Gospel and Jesus Christ, so I think this is very prophetic in the history of the Church. Maybe in some other time we would have had a crucified Christ or we would have some other image of Jesus but this time He’s got open arms and He is welcoming and He is joyful. That is beautiful.”

As North America’s first French-Catholic parish, established in 1664, a decade before the diocese, Lacroix found it fitting that the continent’s first Holy Door would reside at the basilica. For him this door will offer not only opportunities for devout Catholics to deepen their faith but also a means of re-inviting those who may have fallen away from the faith over the years.

“This is a great opportunity for new evangelization in the sense that I am sure that many many Catholics who may have taken distances in the past years, who are not maybe practising Catholics, have an opportunity because of this door and this jubilee and its activities seem appealing that will come a little bit closer,” he said. “I hope that they discover the joy of the Gospel. The joy of the Gospel and the joy of Christianity; the joy of living with Christ.”

It is estimated that 18 million North Americans can trace the baptism or marriage of their ancestors back to the basilica.

And while the door will be the hook to bring people to the city where Catholicism first took hold in North America, Lacroix hopes that people will explore all of the historical Catholic sites in Old Quebec during their visit. Invitations have been sent out to bishops across North America with many pilgrimages already booked for the coming year.

To accommodate these visitors Lacroix said special teams have been organized to facilitate the pilgrimages in English, French and Spanish.

This Holy Door is the seventh of its kind — four can be found at the basilicas in Rome, one is in France and the other in Spain — and will open up into the Chapel of the Sacred Heart on the north side of the basilica.

The Knights of Columbus Supreme Council, the Québec State Council and the the 10 Canadian State Councils pooled $500,000 to fund the creation of the Holy Door.

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