Today, however, its doors are closed amid increasing secularization, declining mass participation, declining revenues, and rising costs of maintaining centuries-old places of worship. The church celebrated the last mass in 2015. His future is uncertain; officials are considering how the building can be transformed.
The plight of Saint-Jean-Baptiste parallels the declining role of the church in Canada’s most Catholic province, where it has dominated for centuries. public and private life – and where spiers and towers still tower over small villages and urban centers – but now faith is diminishing at an alarming rate.
Pope Francis arrived in Quebec on Wednesday for the second leg of his “pilgrimage of repentance” where he drew criticism – again – as critics said his apology was insufficient. Because of the church’s role in Canada’s residential school system for Indigenous children.
For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and placed in boarding schools hundreds of miles from their communities, where they were forbidden to speak their native languages, practice their cultural traditions, and in many cases were physically and sexually abused. left. Most of the schools were run by Catholic institutions.
On Monday, Francis apologized for “the evil caused by many Christians” in the system, but not for the involvement of the church as an institution.
The 85-year-old pontiff celebrated a mass Thursday at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, a popular pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Quebec City. Before beginning, two men approached the pulpit and unfurled a banner calling for the repeal of the 15th-century papal bulls that established the Doctrine of Discovery, which was used as a basis for colonizing and converting indigenous peoples in the new world.
The Quebec that Francis encountered had changed dramatically since the visit of Pope John Paul II In 1984. John Paul was serenaded by 16-year-old Celine Dion at a packed Olympic Stadium in Montreal and celebrated Mass with an estimated 350,000 in attendance at what was then Canada’s largest religious gathering.
According to Statistics Canada, the share of Catholics aged 15 and over in Quebec fell from 87 per cent in 1985 to 62 per cent from 2017 to 2019. In 1985, more than half of people who identified as Catholic attended religious services at least once a month. In 2017-2019, this number was 14 percent.
The proportion of people with a religious affiliation other than Catholic doubled, from 9 percent in 1985 to 18 percent from 2017 to 2019.
“We came out of a situation decades ago where Catholicism had some kind of spiritual authority,” said Jean-Francois Roussel, a professor of theology at the University of Montreal. “For many Quebecers…Catholicism is not part of their lives, or even family life.”
Between 2000 and 2020 the number of churches in the province decreased from 1,780 to 983According to the government agency that manages Quebec’s library and archives.
Catholic baptisms and weddings have also declined, researchers reported last year in the journal Secular Studies.
“For the last 10 years, we’ve been entering a phase of strong decline in certain Catholicism in Quebec,” said E.-Martin Meunier, a sociologist at the University of Ottawa who co-authored the report. “If there is a decline in Catholicism, it is primarily institutional Catholicism.”
It has a long, complicated relationship with Quebec faith
For centuries, the Church had a stranglehold on public institutions in Quebec, including health, education and social services, before the province began to unify in favor of a more secular approach—the so-called Quiet Revolution of the 1960s.
Queue Catholicism has accelerated in recent decades.
The result is that more than 600 churches have been closed in Quebec, many of them bulldozed or deconsecrated to find other uses for the historic buildings.
In Sherbrooke, 100 miles east of Montreal, the former Sainte-Thérèse church is now OMG restaurant, a “holiday place” where cocktails are topped with cotton candy and sweets. “Even the wisest will be quick to listen to the devil that sleeps within them.”
(The O in OMG has devil horns. So do some hamburgers.)
Places of worship in Montreal, where Mark Twain once said, “you can’t throw a brick without breaking a church window,” have also been converted into condominiums and community centers.
In 2014, the former Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours was reborn as Theater Paradox, where this month Justin Turnbull, aka “Suicide Jesus,” defeated Brian Pillman to become the first Apex Championship Wrestling world champion. .
A court could ban Quebec government employees from wearing hijabs, turbans and other religious items
Saint-Jean-Baptiste, meanwhile, is in limbo.
The first church in that place was opened in 1849. It is dedicated to Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist, who would become the patron saint of French Canadians. When it was destroyed by fire in 1881, it was immediately restored.
The priest who delivered the last mass in 2015 praised it as “a stone church built with genius, majesty, and pride, which allows everyone to rub shoulders with beauty, silence, elevation, and contemplation.”
Local government spokesman David O’Brien said the church is owned by the archdiocese. He said the city is analyzing how it can be changed.
Eva Dubuc-April waited in St. Peter’s Basilica. Anne-de-Beaupre on Thursday to celebrate Mass for Francis.
31-year-old Dubuc-April said that she has children was baptized and attended mass from time to time. But he feels strongly that the church needs to modernize by revising its teachings on sexuality and the all-male priesthood.
He personally likes Francis and sees him as a reformer, but he has faced opposition from the conservative Vatican bureaucracy.
“Catholics in Quebec don’t agree with these old teachings,” he said. “If they do not advance, there will be no one left.”
Chico Harlan in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec contributed to this report.
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