OTTAWA (CCN) — Rimouski Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier died suddenly Jan. 10 in hospital shortly after losing consciousness and being taken to hospital by ambulance.
Fournier, 71, had also been serving as president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, during the province’s the contentious debates on euthanasia and on a secular charter.
The archbishop travelled to Quebec City in December for heart surgery and was in Rimouski recovering at the time of his death.
Pope Francis expressed his sorrow and condolences in a letter to Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops president Gatineau Archbishop Paul-André Durocher through the Holy See’s Secretary of State Pietro Parolin. He expressed sympathy for the deceased bishop’s family and hard-hit Christian community, describing Fournier as a faithful and zealous pastor. The letter noted Fournier’s service not only to the local church but his responsibilities on the regional level.
Parolin assured those affected by the sudden loss of the archbishop of the Holy Father’s prayers and passed along the pope’s apostolic blessing.
“We share the great sadness of his family and the Archdiocese of Rimouski,” said Quebec Archbishop Gerald Cyprien Lacroix in a statement. “Mgr. Pierre-Andre Fournier was so loved in the Archdiocese of Quebec, his diocese of origin where he served among others as auxiliary bishop. Turning to the Lord in this moment of trouble, he will give us hope and strength to live through this moment.”
Lacroix celebrated the funeral for Fournier on Jan. 18 at the church of Saint-Robert-Bellarmin de Rimouski. The cardinal held a vigil Jan. 14 at the church of Saint-Roch in Quebec City where the deceased archbishop served as a priest from 1983 to 1995.
Born in Plessisville, Que., on June 8, 1943, Fournier was the third of nine children. He entered Quebec’s Grand Séminaire in 1963, obtained a licentiate in theology from Laval University, and was ordained a priest in 1967.
Fournier will also be missed outside Quebec, particularly at the Madonna House (MH) apostolate based in Combermere, Ont., founded by Catherine de Hueck Doherty.
“This man was a good friend of MH, from his seminarian days, an associate member of our community, who invited us to open our house in Quebec when he was made archbishop of Rimouski,” said MH priest, author and blogger Rev. Denis Lemieux on Facebook. “He was a wonderful man of God and the church, and his sudden death is a blow for the church in Quebec.”