The Archbishop of Montreal tackled the thorny issue of social, cultural and religious differences in his homily marking the patronal feast of St. Patrick’s Basilica.
"It's not easy to be with someone different from us," he told the assembly of about 700 faithful gathered for the annual feast-day mass at St. Patrick's Basilica March 22.
Before a full church - filled with politicians, parishioners from diverse cultures and the usual contingent of St.-Patrick-Parade-goers -Archbishop Christian Lépine acknowledged the angst that many feel when encountering others, without making reference to any specific groups or situations.
"To always be respectful to someone different from us, from different cultures, religions, is not easy," he repeated, but is vitally important.
To make his case and to mark the occasion, the archbishop paraphrased a fabled Irish saying: "There are no strangers here, only friends who have not yet met."
Approaching strangers with the intention of becoming friends requires "the capacity to see and respect everyone who walks on earth as another human being." While it's assumed that everyone operates from this principle, the annals of human history tell another story.
The archbishop then turned to St. Patrick's faith. The Romano-Brit missionary to Ireland was intimately aware that "Christ had died for him; this was personal, not only for all of humanity, but for him," he said.
From that perspective, "every person I meet is someone for whom Christ gave his life - the stranger I have not yet met," the archbishop said.
"Christ tells us that the people we don't know are our brothers and sisters," he continued, because Jesus died for the benefit of each individual human being.
"When we find it difficult to accept differences, look to their humanity," he urged his listeners. "He is also my brother; she, my sister. This is both a gift and a challenge."
It becomes easier the more we accept Christ into our life, he proposed.
ST. Patrick's 168TH Patronal Mass
This was the 168th patronal mass celebrated in the historic mother church for Montreal's English-speaking Catholics. Among the dignitaries present were: Irish Ambassador to Canada Ray Bassett, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, several MPs and MNAs, and representatives from Montreal's various Irish societies.
The Archbishop of Montreal traditionally presides at the patronal mass for the downtown basilica. However next year, the mass will not be held on the Sunday closest to March 17, which is the custom, since it falls on Palm Sunday, Msgr. Francis Coyle, the pastor, said in an interview.
It was the first time parishioners had seen their pastor participate in a Sunday Eucharist since undergoing knee surgery at the end of January.
Following the 10 am mass, the St. Patrick's Parade began at noon.