Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte, retired archbishop of Montreal, died April 8 at age 78 at Marie-Clarac Hospital in Montreal. Register file photo

Cardinal Turcotte remembered for his 'joie de vivre'

  • April 9, 2015

Hours after his death April 8, Montreal Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte was praised by Quebec City Cardinal Gérald Cyprian Lacroix and the emeritus archbishop of Quebec, Maurice Couture, for his "joie de vivre" and for a communication style that invited open dialogue.

They described Cardinal Turcotte as a man who lived for the Church but always maintained a dialogue with the world. His style was inviting, never intimidating, as he maintained great relationships with the public and the media, they said.

"He participated. He engaged in conversation and dialogue with all of us... as someone who had lived through so many changes in the Church and who had served that Church, we were always eager to hear what he had to say," Lacroix said during an April 8 press conference held at the Archdiocese of Quebec offices.

Lacroix, the Primate of Canada, and Couture joined a long list of Church and political leaders praising Cardinal Turcotte, who died at age 78 in the palliative care unit of a Montreal hospital.

Pope Francis extended "heartfelt condolences" at the death of "a pastor who was zealous and attentive to the challenges of the contemporary Church."

Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins praised Cardinal Turcotte's 55 years of service to the Church as a "loving and joyful shepherd" who never forgot "the example of Jesus to be among the flock, especially the poor and the marginalized."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper released a statement that called Cardinal Turcotte "a man of deep principle" who lived a life of faith. "Cardinal Turcotte dedicated his life to the Catholic Church and will be remembered for years to come for his compassion, humility, and leadership.”

Gatineau Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, called Cardinal Turcotte a "man of the common touch" who had a relationship with the media that "was quite unusual and forward looking." He also praised Cardinal Turcotte for exhibiting "a faith that was a source of joy."

Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the former archbishop of Quebec who is now the Vatican's prefect of the Congregation for Bishops,  joined the press conference through Skype. He called Cardinal Turcotte a great man of the Church who served the Church with simplicity, humility and a talent for communication. Ouellet said Cardinal Turcotte was like a brother to him and like a father to many of the faithful.

Lacroix said Cardinal Turcotte was a patriarch to him and many other Canadian bishops that knew him through their interactions at the CCCB. Both Lacroix and Couture talked about their deceased friend with great affection.

Lacroix recalled the last time the two of them visited Cardinal Turcotte one Sunday last fall. He said Cardinal Turcotte knew he was gravely ill and would soon be called home to God. The three celebrated Mass together on the small patient's table Cardinal Turcotte had in his hospital room. They gave him a small stole as Lacroix said the Mass and Couture gave the homily.

"It was very simple, but that's where the most beautiful things happen, in communion and in friendship," said Lacroix. "And after, we shared lunch together... in a small room between the three of us. It was a very festive lunch."

Lacroix said there were no small people for Cardinal Turcotte. He valued every single person. Lacroix recalled the time in 2009 when the two of them attended the funeral of Archbishop Gilles Ouellet.

Cardinal Turcotte was a familiar face in Quebec but Lacroix said he was amazed that so many people in the street approached him. Lacroix said he admired the ease at which Cardinal Turcotte talked to people, Christian or non-Christian, and how he liked to engage in conversations with everyone.

For Couture, Cardinal Turcotte's life reflected the fundamental teachings of the Church. He said Cardinal Turcotte understood what it meant to live in obedience and, at the end of his life, to live in suffering, which Couture said was a profound lesson for him.

The funeral Mass for Cardinal Turcotte will be held on Friday, April 17 at 2 p.m. at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral in Montreal.

The public can pay their respects to the Cardinal during his viewing at the cathedral on Thursday, April 16 from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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