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Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa. Register file photo.

Ontario dioceses prepare to merge

  • July 10, 2019

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa archdiocese is officially amalgamating with the Alexandria-Cornwall diocese to form the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall.

The two Catholic districts on Ontario’s border with Quebec have been preparing for this next step since December, when Pope Francis appointed Bishop Guy Desrochers as auxiliary bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall to work with Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast on the transition to one diocese.

Prendergast had been appointed by the Pope to add the Alexandria-Cornwall diocese to his responsibilities in April 2018.

“No one will lose employment due to the amalgamation and the Diocesan Centre in Cornwall will be retained as a Pastoral Centre for five years,” said Robert Du Broy, who handles communications for the Ottawa archdiocese.

Alexandria-Cornwall was created as a diocese in 1890 and had seen eight bishops before Prendergast was appointed apostolic administrator in 2015 after Bishop Marcel Damphousse was moved to the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

In a 2017 interview with CCN, Prendergast said one of the reasons to amalgamate Ottawa with Alexandria-Cornwall was the protection of the French language and the difficulty for the apostolic nuncio to find bilingual priests who could serve as bishops. 

Also, many of the parishes of both the Ottawa archdiocese and the Alexandria-Cornwall diocese are near Highway 417 and geographically closer to each other than to the neighbouring archdiocese of Kingston. 

The Catholic population in Alexandria-Cornwall has been shrinking and aging, and already the population there is oriented to Ottawa for services, he said.

In a July 3 communique to Catholics of both dioceses, Prendergast said a transition committee has been formed to facilitate “as smooth a transition as possible.”

“The process of amalgamation under canon and civil law is both lengthy and complex,” the archbishop said. “It will require different levels of consultations. Our aim is to report periodically to the faithful of the diocese and the archdiocese as to our progress and the key decisions that have been reached.”

According to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall has 27 parishes and missions, with 29 diocesan priests serving a Catholic population of 60,000.

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