Toronto nativity scene plaque honouring pro-life hero caught up in politics

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  • December 17, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Activists with Campaign Life Coalition were shocked to find themselves accused of playing pro-life politics with Christmas. All they wanted to do was honour an aging, beloved priest, said the head of Campaign Life’s Gethsemene Ministries.

“I was quite surprised,” Suresh Dominic told The Catholic Register.

After written complaints reached Mayor David Miller’s office, city officials asked Dominic to remove a sign from the back of the creche display in front of Old City Hall. The sign on a laminated 8X11 sheet of paper said the statues in the scene had been anonymously donated in honour of “pro-life hero Fr. Ted Colleton.”

The sign was removed the day Dominic received the complaint and the Nativity scene remains in place with a small plaque stating that it is sponsored by Gethsemene Ministries. Dominic said he had no intention of stirring the pot on abortion access.

“If you look from Bay Street or anywhere around there you see a Nativity scene, and that is the message Gethsemene Ministries is trying to convey,” Dominic said.

Campaign Life Coalition gave no thought to the possibility the sign might cause controversy, let alone wind up on the front page of the Toronto Star and various radio phone-in programs.

“When Suresh Dominic came to me and told me what was going on I couldn’t believe it,” said Campaign Life national president Jim Hughes.

Colleton, who will enter his 70th year of priesthood in 2010, was unfazed by the kerfuffle. Neither did the anonymous donors object to the sign being removed, said Dominic.

The traditional manger scene across from The Bay and in front of the Old City Hall courthouse had been sponsored for years by the Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild of Toronto. Three years ago responsibility for the display passed over to Gethsemene Ministries, an arm of the Catholic wing of Campaign Life Coalition.

The Nativity scene had been vandalized a number of years running, and Gethsemene Ministries found itself renting a Nativity scene at a cost of $500 per year. With the help of anonymous donors the group decided to buy new statues and house them in a two-metre high manger behind plexiglass. The new manger cost about $5,000, and the donors were offered the opportunity to either take credit themselves or pay tribute to whomever they chose, said Dominic.

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