Quebec's spiritual void its biggest problem

By  Barb Fraze, Catholic News Service
  • June 6, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - Quebec Cardinal Marc Ouellet, who last year sparked controversy with his remarks about religion in Quebec society, said Catholics “need some more militance” to reaffirm “the values of our Catholic tradition in Quebec.”

He cited Catholic contributions in health care, education and social services and said, “All of this was and is very positive.”

The cardinal told Catholic media professionals at the 2008 Catholic Media Convention in Toronto May 30 that after 40 years of secularization in Quebec “the moment has come” for a new way of looking at the church’s historical role in society.

“There is a fear that the influence of the church will return,” he said during a question-and-answer session after he addressed the audience about the church’s call to evangelize and the media’s role in that call.

Answering a question about his October testimony to a provincial government-appointed commission looking at accommodating immigrants and their religious practices, the cardinal said he asked to address the commission.

“I think it was an opportunity to reaffirm the Christian roots” of Quebec, he said.

In his written testimony to the commission, the cardinal said: “The real problem is not that of the integration of immigrants ... becoming more difficult because of their religious demands for accommodation. ... The real problem in Quebec is the spiritual void created by a religious and cultural rupture, a significant loss of memory, bringing in its wake a family crisis and an education crisis, leaving citizens disoriented, demotivated, destabilized and prone to grasping at passing and superficial values.”

His written and oral testimony and a subsequent open letter of apology for the historical wrongs of the church in Quebec created a media storm, but Ouellet said he saw them as a sign that the church was “open to go forward,” to turn the page and move on.

“I learned that I still have very much to learn,” he said with a smile.

In his prepared remarks, the cardinal said the church’s new evangelization begins with little steps, and he said Catholics should not succumb to “the temptation of immediately finding the great success.” Later, responding to a question, he cited the small signs of evangelization he sees in Quebec:

  • A renewal of lay movements, especially for young people;

  • A strong catechetical movement to help replace religious education classes removed from public schools;

  • The “social testimony” of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Canadian bishops’ international relief and development agency, based in Montreal;

  • “The help of immigrants” who are leading Quebec Catholics to rediscover the joys of pilgrimage to Quebec’s many shrines;

  • The strong youth movement resulting from the 2002 World Youth Day being held in Canada. A core of young people is helping to organize the International Eucharistic Congress that begins in Quebec City June 15, he said.

The cardinal spoke briefly about the congress, outlining part of the eight-day program and calling it “a countersign to a culture that lives on fast food and quick fixes.”

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