Festivities surrounding the 375th anniversary of Montreal’s founding were officially launched on Wednesday, May 17 at Notre-Dame Basilica, with a solemn Mass presided by the Archbishop of Montreal, Most Rev. Christian Lépine.
This Mass was intended as a commemoration of the very first Mass celebrated in Ville-Marie, on May 17, 1642, presided by Father Vimont. On that day, "the Governor provided Sieur de Maisonneuve with possession of the Isle."¹
The highest civil, political, and religious authorities of Quebec and Canada were present, including the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and his wife, the Premier of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, and the Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre. The Archbishop welcomed all four of them in front of the basilica, while church bells throughout the Archdiocese rang, announcing the joy of this anniversary.
Several First Nation chiefs were present. Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, and Joe Norton, Grand Chief of Kahnawake, were greeted by all the dignitaries. Furthermore, the first reading (Sir 44:1.10-15), a deeply moving text, was proclaimed in Mohawk by none other than Christine Zachary Déom, Chief of Council in Kahnawake.
Denis Coderre delivered a poignant speech. "Montreal did not arise from a war or a conquest, but from the dream of spreading the word of God! The only ambition of all of these devout founders was to build a missionary city. (...) It is this spiritual dimension that we are celebrating today, on this day that is also dedicated to the fight against homophobia and transphobia, a city where we can be different, yet equal. We are all sons and daughters of immigrants!"
During his homily, Most Reverend Lépine recalled the spirit of adventure of Montreal's founders: Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance. "Montreal was a community of communities, founded by adventurers driven by hope, who did not know if they would survive the elements, the winter cold, or the wars. Their faith in the crucified and risen Jesus Christ allowed them to trust entirely in God!"
"The founding values have stood the test of time and are still operative today. They have the ability to bring people together and create peace," he also said.
The music cannot go unmentioned. Pierre Grandmaison, official organist at the basilica, charmed the entire assembly with its own composition of the Mass, entitled Cantate Domino. The opening hymn, "Ce jour que fit le Seigneur" (Psalm 117), the Canticle of Isaiah (12), and the hymn Angus Dei were magnificent. Also, Jesuit Father Erik Oland sang the Veni Creator Spiritus hymn, and the entire assembly joined in spontaneously.
This celebration was a genuine prayer of thanksgiving.
Read the entire homily
View the Mass (vidéo)
Read Pope Francis's Message to all Montrealers
¹ Excerpt from The Jesuit Relations (1642), read during the Mass.