Clergy, laypeople and government officials attended Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte’s funeral at a packed three-hour service at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral April 17. Photo by Alan Hustak

Hundreds of clergy, laity mourn Turcotte, 'cardinal of the working people'

By  Alan Hustak, Catholic Register Special
  • April 17, 2015

MONTREAL - It was dignified and unpretentious, a funeral fit for Montreal's popular Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte.

Two fellow cardinals, more than 50 bishops and archbishops, along with hundreds of priests and parishioners packed Mary Queen of the World Cathedral April 17 for the three-hour service. Those who could not get into the cathedral watched the proceedings on a giant television screen set up in Place du Canada, a park across the street.

Quebec's Lieutenant Governor, Pierre Duchesne, Premier Philippe Couillard and three previous provincial premiers, including Lucien Bouchard, who delivered a eulogy were in the front pews. NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Steven Blaney, the Minister of Public Security, represented the federal government. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was conspicuous by his absence.

As a choir sang the processional hymn, "Peuple de Dieu en march," mourners of all ages rose from their places to quietly remember Turcotte, who died on April 8 at age 78.

Several homeless people and youth ministers followed the ceremonial cross up the main aisles of the cathedral ahead of a procession of bishops as a reminder of Cardinal Turcotte's dedication to the underprivileged and to youth ministry.

As Sr. Nicole Forunier, who works with the homeless at local shelters, told those in the packed pews, the cardinal not only put his faith in God, but in humans. "He was non-judgmental, and always ready to offer advice."

In an interview, Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprian Lacroix, Canada's Primate, described Cardinal Turcotte "as a cardinal for the working people. He was a man of humility, a man with a sense of humour, who saw Christ in the unfortunate. He loved talking to people."

Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto agreed.

"Above all, he was wonderful, down to earth, earthy and compassionate."

turcotte-funeralToronto archbishop Cardinal Thomas Collins, left, and Québec archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix pay their respects to former Montreal archbishop Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte. (Photo by Alan Hustak)

Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine officiated at the service. Papal Nuncio Luigi Bonazzi read a telegram from Pope Francis, who called Turcotte "a zealous pastor who was as attentive to contemporary challenges, and as a faithful pastor who served not only his own diocese but also at the national level as well as being highly regarded as a member of the Roman dicasteries."

Among those in the sanctuary were the 11 priests Cardinal Turcotte had consecrated as bishops, including Lionel Gendron, the bishop of St. Jean Longueuil, Montreal Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Dowd and Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini, who also spoke warmly of the cardinal.

Bouchard praised Cardinal Turcotte as "a bridge between a great clerical tradition in Quebec and the modern world."

"He was a priest different from the others, he was always himself," Bourchard said. "He was raised in a modest family with a sense of sacrifice, and with the spirit that existed in his neighbourhood of helping one another. He never turned his back on that.

"On the contrary, it became the centrepiece of his actions. He was sensitive to poverty and to the human struggle."

Bouchard also remarked that the cardinal was also a good politician and a good businessman who was able to sweet-talk donors into giving money to help restore the cathedral.

The eucharist was celebrated as incense swirled above the neo-baroque high altar, and the Salve Regina was sung as the casket was moved to the funeral chapel in the 120-year-old cathedral, where all of the city's bishops are interred. Cardinal Turcotte was interred in a vault in the top tier.

"We will miss him, but when you are believer, he will always be with us," said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre. "Not only was he a great advisor, he was a man of the people. As cardinal, I saw a lot of resemblance to him in Pope Francis. He was a man of conviction, a man of faith."

Dignitaries and diplomats had to deal with unprecedented security as they attempted to enter Montreal's Roman Catholic Cathedral for the funeral. Everyone entering the church was screened with a metal detector. Two young men seated at the back of the east transept were escorted out as "potential troublemakers," a few minutes before the Mass began.

(Hustak is a contributing editor at



Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I enjoyed this article. It is unfortunate to see the editing errors. This author could really use a proofreader. His previous article about the Cardinal also had some simple errors.

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