Catholic Archbishop of Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins says that Quebec’s bill prohibiting public employees from wearing religious symbols is deeply distressing.
Cardinal Collins made the remarks in his keynote address at the 40th Annual Cardinal’s Dinner held on Tuesday, November 5th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and which attracted 1,600 guests making it the largest community dinner in Canada.
“We must also be mindful of the cause of religious freedom worldwide,” said Cardinal Collins. “Here in our own country, a neighbouring province has passed legislation prohibiting citizens holding public service jobs from wearing religious symbols.”
“This is deeply distressing in a country that prides itself on diversity and religious freedom,” he added. “We reject the idea that freedom of religion means freedom from religion; religious communities are fundamental to the life of our country, in which they harmoniously work together.”
The Cardinal’s Dinner, founded by the late Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter, continues to serve as one of the largest local dinners in the country. Since its inception in 1979, the event has raised more than $6 million. The dinner supported 31 local charities in 2018.
The dinner brought together the leadership in the religious, political, corporate, and community sectors with the parishioners from across the Archdiocese of Toronto. The head table included several religious and political leaders, including the Vatican nuncio to Canada, Luigi Bonazzi, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and several municipal mayors.
“I would also like to bring greetings to our distinguished head table guests and those with us tonight representing leadership in the religious, political, corporate, and community sectors,” said Cardinal Collins in his welcoming remarks. “I extend warm wishes to the religious leaders present from other faith communities who make such a profound impact in our cities, province and throughout the country.”
In addition to religious freedom, the Cardinal’s speech covered conscience rights, euthanasia and Christian persecution and, quoting from the life of St. John Henry Newman, he urged people of faith to be courageous in the face of “an aggressively secular society.”
“All people of faith, living in what is more and more an aggressively secular society, must manifest the courage of their convictions,” said Cardinal Collins. “They have reason to fear that fidelity to their convictions, based on the ancient tradition of faith and reason, will be an impediment to advancing in their career.”
“Too often the rich wisdom of Catholic faith, and of other faiths, is caricatured and denied legitimacy by those who are trapped in a shallow secular mentality, and who may seek to use simplistic slogans to terminate conversation,” he continued. “We surely need to enter into conversation with our secularized friends and neighbours, who have an inaccurate understanding of our faith, and of faith itself.”
“Though we must always dispel illusion and base our life on the search for the truth, in doing so we need to have compassion for the people we encounter, and treat each one as a whole person, not as a thing: as a “who”, not as a “what”. This is sometimes extremely difficult to do. We can see that when we consider the sharpness of controversy in politics, in the media, and also, sadly, in the Church. We all need the wisdom of John Henry Newman: Heart Speaks to Heart.”