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Honorary degree citation - Jean - Claude Turcotte*

By: Pamela Bright, June 2007

Mr. Chancellor, it is my honour to present to you His Eminence, Jean-Claude Turcotte, Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and community leader.

Helping young people and the poor, while furthering the doctrine of the Catholic faith, has been a lifelong calling for Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte. He is tireless in keeping the Roman Catholic Church vital and has enabled churches from less affluent neighbourhoods across Montreal to remain open despite the declining number of parishioners and funds. His efforts have allowed much-needed social programs like soup kitchens, food banks and spiritual counseling for people of all faiths, to continue where they are most needed.

Cardinal Turcotte actively supports educational endeavours, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. Indeed, he was among the leading religious figures who championed Concordia University's acquisition of the Grey Nuns' Motherhouse, on René Lévesque Boulevard, after the Order opted to downsize to accommodate its aging and declining membership. Cardinal Turcotte fervently believes that patrimonial gems, such as the Motherhouse, should continue serving the population as reborn institutions of higher learning.

That's why he took part in the June 2004 media event announcing the milestone sale to Concordia. His sense of optimism and humour were evident when he said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I believe this is the first press conference I've ever been asked to bless!"

A native Montrealer, Cardinal Turcotte graduated from Collège André-Grasset. Following his graduation, he was accepted into the Grand Séminaire de Montréal to complete theological and pastoral formation. He was only 23 years of age when in 1959, he was ordained to the priesthood in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul Church.

He began serving the Church as Assistant Pastor of Saint-Mathias Parish and was appointed Assistant Diocesan Chaplain of the Young Christian Workers in 1961.

He furthered his education in 1964 by obtaining a certificate in Social Pastoral Sciences from the Catholic Faculties of Lille, France. Upon his return to the Archdiocese, he was named Diocesan Chaplain of Jeunesse indépendante catholique féminine and of the Christian Worker Movement.

From 1967 to 1974, he was responsible for a number of areas within the Office for Clergy, the diocesan seminarians of Montreal, Secretary to the Clergy's Salary Commission and the continuing education of the clergy.

He became director of the Office for Parishes in 1974 and was named Diocesan Bursar in 1977. He was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese and General Coordinator for pastoral activities on September 25, 1981.

By 1982, Pope John Paul II named him Titular Bishop of Suas and Auxiliary Bishop of Montreal. Two years later, Cardinal Turcotte would organize the Papal visit to Canada.

Recognition of his contribution continued when Pope John Paul II named him Bishop Turcotte, the Archbishop of Montreal, on March 17, 1990.

The Pope then announced Archbishop Turcotte's elevation to the rank of Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church in 1994. That same year, he became a member of the College of Cardinals in Rome.

Cardinal Turcotte was also appointed to two curial postings in 1994: the Congregation for the Causes of Saints and the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. He was elected Vice-President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1995 and to a two-year term as President in 1997.

Cardinal Turcotte has proved to be an energetic and effective steward for the 250 active churches in his diocese. Thanks to the Cardinal's Campaign, he helps raise about two million dollars ($2 million) per year to further the philanthropic and spiritual work of the Church. He is a popular figure who, notably, pens a weekly column for Le Journal de Montréal.

Cardinal Turcotte presented catechetical teaching to global audiences as part of four World Youth Days organized by the Roman Catholic Church. As he said at the time, "For me, proclaiming the Gospel is not a reason for glory, but a duty."

He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and has received honorary degrees from McGill University and the Université de Montréal.

Cardinal Turcotte is a man of peace, a pastoral figure who supports the rights of the underprivileged to a better life, better education and better health care services. Cardinal Turcotte has dedicated his life to promoting kindness and love for all children, women and men.

Mr. Chancellor, on behalf of Senate and the Board of Governors, it my privilege and honour to present to you Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte so that you may confer upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.

* deceased

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