As the Archdiocese of Quebec embarks on a jubilee year to mark its 350th anniversary, it hopes to strike the right balance between celebrating the significant historical role played by the archdiocese while acknowledging the sober realities facing the modern Church.
On Dec. 8, 2023, the Archdiocese inaugurated the jubilee year by opening the Holy Door in the Sacred Heart chapel of the Notre-Dame de Québec Basilica.
The Holy Door, the only one in the Americas, was inaugurated in 2013 during the 350th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Notre-Dame de Québec Parish by St. François de Laval.
An Archdiocesan representative told The Catholic Register that “all over North America, believers are concerned by this feast, since the diocese of Quebec has given birth to more than 150 dioceses over the years.”
The Quebec diocese was created in 1674 when Pope Clement X elevated the then apostolic vicariate to a diocese. Quebec was the first diocese established in North America north of Mexico.
Since 1956, the Archbishop of Quebec has held the ceremonial title of Primate of Canada.
Quebec is not just significant for its historical primacy but also for the noteworthy number of saints and blesseds who were involved in establishing the Catholic Church in the territory.
St. François de Laval, canonized in 2014 by Pope Francis, was the first bishop of Quebec as well as the founder of the Quebec City seminary in 1663.
Despite the rich historical and spiritual legacy of the Quebec diocese, the Archdiocese is approaching the anniversary “with great sensitivity” as the Catholic community in Quebec City faces many challenges, including “decreasing resources, reorganizing parishes, helping victims of sexual abuse to heal and implementing protective practices.”
“There is also the context of secularism and the negative perception by many citizens of the Church’s historical heritage.”
The Archdiocese is promoting the year as one of “encounter.”
In addition to the many planned cultural festivities, at least one event will address the difficult topic of historical abuse. In February there is a scheduled “meeting circle” of parish representatives on the theme of “vulnerability.”
“This is a milestone in the ongoing formation of our communities, on the issue of protecting minors or vulnerable people.”
The announcement includes the note that, “being of great interest, part of the activity will be offered to the general public.”
Like several other dioceses in the province, Quebec City is in the process of settling a large class-action suit in the matter of historic sexual abuse.
The Archdiocese was asked how it hopes the year’s events will contribute to the growth and renewal of a Church that is by most metrics, and by its own account, a struggling one.
“Within the Church, we hope to live a year that brings joy, gratitude, communion, courage and creativity. Of course, we need to embrace our vulnerability, which can open new doors. We want to continue the great work of transforming our diocesan Church: more missionary, more adjusted to today’s resources, more turned towards the needs of the world, more inclusive.”
As of May 2024, pilgrims are invited to take to the hills on a newly established route that begins in La Malbaie in the Charlevoix and ends at the Holy Door of the Basilica in Quebec City. Named the Kapoah Way, a contraction of two Indigenous words, Innu and Wendat, for “path,” the pilgrimage is being promoted as a “Compostella equivalent.” That is, a North American alternative to the popular pilgrimage that begins in France and ends in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
There is a weekend of cultural and liturgical events scheduled for the third weekend of September.
On Sept. 20 through 22, Canadian bishops will gather in Quebec City for the annual assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. A Mass will be celebrated in the Basilica with all the bishops in attendance.There will also be a “festive day at Place d’Youville, for multicultural and intergenerational fun” in addition to other “family-friendly” events.
It isn’t just the Holy Door that has been opened in this 350th anniversary year, the Quebec Archdiocese has implemented an “open door” policy for the entire year.
“We invite Catholics from all over the world, especially Canada, to come and experience a pilgrimage to Quebec City this year! We look forward to welcoming them!”
Anna Farrow is the Montreal Correspondent for the Catholic Register