Archbishop Terrance Prendergast.

New Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall approved by Pope Francis

  • May 6, 2020

OTTAWA -- It’s official. The long-anticipated merger of the Ottawa and Alexandria-Cornwall dioceses was approved by the Vatican on May 6 and will be known as the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall.

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast maintains his leadership of the Catholic Church in Ottawa and becomes the first archbishop of the new archdiocese. But in making the announcement on May 6, Pope Francis has already named his eventual successor, appointing former Bishop of Sault St. Marie Marcel Damphousse as the Coadjutor Bishop of Ottawa-Cornwall.

Ottawa-Cornwall communications director Robert Du Broy said that although no official date has been set, Prendergast is expected to retire this year and then Damphousse will become his successor in the post.

In a statement released in Ottawa, Pope Francis also appointed former Auxiliary Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall and Auxiliary Bishop of Ottawa Guy Desrochers as the new Bishop of Pembroke. 

In a speech in October 2019, Prendergast outlined how his retirement would likely follow closely after the merger of the Ottawa and Alexandria-Corwall dioceses was finalized.

“Earlier this year, I turned 75 and submitted my resignation to Pope Francis, as Canon Law requires,” Prendergast said on Oct. 30. “His Holiness accepted my resignation according to the Latin formula ‘nunc pro tunc’ or, ‘now for then.’ This means accepted already—'nunc’—for implementation at a future date—'tunc’—to be determined.”

Damphousse was born in St. Joseph, Man., and was ordained as a priest in 1991 for the Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1984 at the University College of Saint Boniface, followed by a Bachelor’s degree in Theology in 1989 from Saint Paul University in Ottawa. 

In 2002, he received a Licentiate in Spiritual Theology from the Teresianum, a Carmelite Pontifical Theological Faculty in Rome. For several years, Damphousse taught at the Manitoba Catholic School of Evangelization and was Diocesan Vocations Director for 12 years. He was rector of the Saint-Boniface Cathedral in Manitoba when, on June 28, 2012, Pope Benedict XVI named him bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall. He served there until Nov. 12, 2016, when Pope Francis appointed him bishop of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie.

According to a press release from Du Broy about the merger, “the amalgamation will ensure more efficient management of the Church’s resources while respecting the bilingual nature of the region.”

While the merger of Ottawa and Corwall into the new Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall is official and recognized within the Catholic Church, the formal civil merger still needs approval through the Canadian Parliament.

“The nature of the diocesan corporation — a corporation sole — requires an Act of Parliament for incorporation. Our legal counsel is moving forward with the civil amalgamation process,” DuBroy said.

The former Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall contains 27 parishes divided into English and French deaneries, according to its website.

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