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Surprise! Giant spider atop Ottawa’s cathedral called ‘sacrilegious’


Catholic News Service

OTTAWA, Ontario — The archbishop of Ottawa expressed regret that several Catholics were shocked at the sight of a giant robotic spider perched on Notre Dame Cathedral.

A giant mechanical spider is seen during an art performance in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa July 27. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)

A giant mechanical spider is seen during an art performance in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa July 27. (CNS photo/Chris Wattie, Reuters)

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast said he was surprised by the negative reaction to an artistic initiative after critics called the spider’s placement “sacrilegious,” “demonic,” and “disrespectful” of a sacred space.

“My cathedral staff and I anticipated that some … might object, but thought it would be minimal, as nothing demeaning was intended in the spider being near the church,” said the archbishop in an email interview with Canadian Catholic News.

“I regret that we had not sufficiently understood that others would see this event so differently. I say to those who were shocked that I understand that this would have been upsetting for them and that I regret that a well-intentioned effort to cooperate in a celebration was anything but that for them.”

The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theater company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa July 27-30 as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.

The spectacle of robots, music and other special effects drew tens of thousands to Ottawa’s downtown.

The show opened July 27 in the evening, with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.

“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.

Others defended the archbishop’s decision.

“While the viewer may find the juxtaposition jarring, I gather it’s supposed to be,” wrote Kris Dmytrenko. “But sacrilegious? C’mon, give your archbishop a break. This civic engagement with art recalls the Vatican’s Courtyard of the Gentiles project. Culture is a bridge.”

The decision to participate in the show was motivated by a desire to engage with the wider Ottawa community, said Archbishop Prendergast.

“We make use of the city to obtain permits for our events, and they are most cooperative,” he said. “The Good Friday Way of the Cross lets us have access to public venues (Supreme Court, Parliament Hill, the plaza in front of the National Gallery), and the police offer a security escort.

“We try to be good citizens, good neighbors and cooperative,” he said.

“To the extent that we did see symbolism, it was that, afterward, Our Lady would continue to reign, something I mentioned in a tweet right after the Thursday performance, as people I respect began to make their objections known.”

Organizers approached the cathedral staff last year. They wanted to position Kumo on the cathedral because it is across the street from the National Art Gallery, which features a large spider sculpture called Mama in its entrance courtyard, Archbishop Prendergast said. The idea was to make it seem as if Kumo was approaching Mama.

“Cathedral staff were shown other cathedrals and public buildings in Europe that had been involved,” the archbishop said. “It seemed innocent enough.

“I guess we thought people would see this as a sign the church is involved in Ottawa’s celebrations,” he said. “Many people, both Catholic and others, English and Francophone, remarked how pleased they were that Notre Dame was involved in our celebration of Canada 150.”


Gyapong is Ottawa correspondent for Canadian Catholic News.

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Ottawa archbishop prays for shooting victims, tells Canadians to not be afraid


Catholic News Service

OTTAWA, Ontario — Recalling the words of St. John Paul II, Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast called upon Canadians not to be afraid in the wake of the Oct. 22 shooting that left a Canadian soldier dead and forced lawmakers to barricade themselves inside their parliament offices.

Flags fly at half-mast on the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, Oct. 23. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier, was shot and killed while on duty at the nearby National War Memorial. (CNS photo/Warren Toda, EPA)

Flags fly at half-mast on the Canadian Parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario, Oct. 23. Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a Canadian soldier, was shot and killed while on duty at the nearby National War Memorial. (CNS photo/Warren Toda, EPA)

In an email interview a day after the incident, Archbishop Prendergast noted that the violence occurred on the feast of St. John Paul and recalled the saint’s first words when he was elected pope in 1978 were, “Don’t be afraid! Open your hearts wide to Christ.”

“These words apply most appropriately to this present moment in our life in the nation’s capital, but they speak also to all Canadians,” the archbishop wrote.

Authorities said a gunman killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a member of the army reserves from Hamilton, Ontario, who was guarding the tomb of the unknown soldier at the National War Memorial blocks from parliament. The assailant, whom police identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, made his way to the parliament where he fired multiple times before he was shot and killed.

“God is still the Lord of our lives and is at work in the hearts of the bystanders who attempted CPR, called the police and other first responders who showed themselves courageous in putting their lives at risk in a moment of crisis,” Archbishop Prendergast said. “We have much to be grateful for. To live with moral certitude is to presume people mean me/us well and we should live out of that conviction.

“And while remaining alert to signs of behavior that can be harmful, we need to go about our business as the friendly and welcoming people I have come to know Ottawans to be,” he said.

The morning of the shootings, Archbishop Prendergast was in Blessed Sacrament Church in Toronto celebrating the funeral of a friend when he first heard the news.

“As I went back to the sacristy, someone mentioned that there was a terrorist action going on in Ottawa in generic terms, that much of Ottawa was on lockdown and that I should check to see whether I could fly to Ottawa in the afternoon,” he said. He was planning on an afternoon flight to he could host his annual Archbishop’s Charity Dinner that evening. More than 700 tickets had been sold.

The archbishop and his staff decided to cancel the dinner in the wake of the shootings. He said the food that had been prepared was delivered to the Shepherds of Good Hope for distribution to Ottawa’s needy residents.

In a press release announcing the cancelation, Archbishop Prendergast offered prayers for the victims.

“Let us offer our prayers to God in support of those who have been most affected by today’s events. As we do, let us also thank God for the beauty of our country and for the blessings of peace and security which are the blessings bestowed upon Canadians,” the statement said.


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Groups to fight Quebec’s new euthanasia law

June 6th, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

OTTAWA, Ontario — A Catholic leader joined several organizations opposed to euthanasia in condemning Quebec’s “dying with dignity” law that brings Belgium-style euthanasia to the province.

The new law, Bill 52, passed June 5 by a 94-22 vote. It outlines the conditions under which terminally ill Quebeckers can request medical aid in dying.

It treats euthanasia as health care, which falls under provincial jurisdiction, while the Criminal Code, which lists the practice as culpable homicide, is under federal jurisdiction.

Federal Justice Minister Peter MacKay has not indicated what action, if any, the federal government will take.

Cardinal Gerald Cyprien Lacroix of Quebec expressed disappointment in the bill’s passage on his Facebook page.

“I hoped until the last moment that our members (would) not vote in favor of this bill, which introduced euthanasia with all its consequences. I am very disappointed,” the post said.

“Now, we will have to work with even more zeal to accompany the people at the end of life so that they do not have to request euthanasia,” the post added.

In a speech at a vigil outside the National Assembly on the eve of the vote, Cardinal Lacroix said there was no consensus on euthanasia, contrary to what governmental officials have been saying. He also noted the sense of disquiet, especially among older Quebeckers.

The Physicians’ Alliance Against Euthanasia and the Montreal-based Living with Dignity vowed to challenge the law in court on constitutional grounds.

“With few exceptions, our elected officials have also chosen to ignore that Quebec does not have jurisdiction to decriminalize euthanasia,” Living with Dignity said in a statement. “Kill a patient, even at his request, not a care; this is a homicide prohibited by the Criminal Code.”

“This is a serious betrayal of the sick and the dying, as the killing of a patient who is dying is not a treatment, but a homicide,” said the physicians’ group said in a separate statement.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, said his organization would support any legal challenge to the law.

“Let’s be clear, Bill 52 gives Quebec physicians the right to intentionally and directly cause the death of persons by lethal injection,” Schadenberg wrote on his blog. “This represents an act of homicide and not an act of ‘end of life care.’”

He described the law as “imprecise, open to abuse and based on the Belgian euthanasia law.”

“In Belgium, euthanasia is being done to people who are not terminally ill but living with depression; euthanasia has been extended to children and studies have proven that euthanasia is often done to people without request,” he said.

Palomar Aguilar, MacKay’s spokeswoman, said in an email that the government believes “the Criminal Code provisions prohibiting assisted suicide and euthanasia are in place to protect all persons, including those who are most vulnerable in our society. The Supreme Court of Canada acknowledged the state interest in protecting human life and upheld the constitutionality of the existing legislation 20 years ago in the Rodriguez decision.”

In the case, a Victoria, British Columbia, woman, Sue Rodriguez, sought to have a legal right to assisted suicide after being diagnosed in 1991 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. She took her cause to the Supreme Court of Canada, but lost in a 5-4 vote. In 1994, she took her own life with the help of an anonymous physician. Assisted suicide remains punishable with a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison under the Criminal Code.

Aguilar also noted that the Canadian Parliament voted in April 2010 by “a large majority” not to change the laws against euthanasia and assisted suicide, “which is an expression of democratic will on this topic.”


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Quebec to vote on euthanasia bill next month

January 28th, 2014 Posted in International News Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

OTTAWA, Ontario — Quebec’s euthanasia Bill 52 will come to a vote in February, and the province’s bishops say it “goes against the most basic human values and contradicts the very purpose of medicine.”

“Bringing about a patient’s death is not a medical act,” the bishops said in a Jan. 23 statement.

“To cause death to a sick person is not to care for him,” the bishops said. “A lethal injection is not a treatment. Euthanasia is not a form of care.”

The vote could come soon after the Quebec National Assembly reconvenes Feb. 11. The commission tasked with a detailed study of the bill “rushed through going through the articles to finish the amendments,” in January, said Nicolas Steenhout, executive director of Living With Dignity, a coalition of people and groups opposed to euthanasia in Quebec.

Although dozens of amendments have been proposed, Steenhout said, the bill would still allow euthanasia, or the deliberate killing of patients.

“The feeling people on the street are getting is this is now something that is good,” he said. “They really aren’t informed of the problems in the law and the risks the law would bring, especially compared to what is going on in Belgium and Holland.

“People think there is abuse going on elsewhere but it will never happen in Quebec,” Steenhout said. “I think that is a very dangerous impression to leave people with.”

The bishops said that, if the legislation is passed, “the act of causing death would be considered a form of ‘care’ that could be offered and ‘administered’ to the terminally ill.”

“We already have the right to refuse overtreatment. We already have the right not to have our lives artificially prolonged by being plugged in to all sorts of equipment,” they said. “These are givens: We do not need a new law to guarantee them.”

Steenhout noted that the legislation indicates a person must be at end of life before he or she can be euthanized, but it fails to define what “end of life” means.

“That causes huge risks, leaving the words completely open to interpretation and abuse,” he said.

The amended bill also defines “medical aid in dying,” as the administration of substances or drugs at the patient’s request to relieve the patient’s suffering “by causing death,” Steenhout said. It means “a doctor is going to administer a poison to someone and they will die.”


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