MONTREAL (CCN) - At press time, the Archdiocese of Montreal was making final preparations to bid adieu to a beloved pastor and its ninth Roman Catholic bishop, Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte. The retired archbishop had shepherded Canada's second largest diocese for 22 years; he died April 8 at age 78.
A day of public mourning was scheduled for April 16; the cardinal's remains will lie in state in Mary Queen of the World Cathedral.
Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal will preside at the 2 p.m. funeral on April 17, assisted by Cardinals Gérald Lacroix of Quebec City and Thomas Collins of Toronto, and Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi.
Among the numerous dignitaries who will be in attendance are Quebec Lieutenant Governor Pierre Duchesne and Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre.
The cardinal will be buried within the cathedral in the Bishops' Chapel, resting alongside his predecessors including the founding bishop, Jean-Jacques Lartigue (1777-1840).
Numerous messages of condolences have been received, the archdiocese reports.
In his message, Pope Francis described Cardinal Turcotte as a “committed pastor, attentive to the challenges of the contemporary church.” He underlined the key role the cardinal played during the 1997 Synod of America, which Francis, as the newly appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Buenos Aires, also attended.
Just over a year ago, Turcotte was in Rome for the February 2014 consistory that elevated Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix to the College of Cardinals. A couple of months later, he was relying more and more on a cane to walk but still worked regularly in his office until August, when he was hospitalized for an infection.
A longtime diabetic, the cardinal spent the last seven months trying to regain his health. In January, he had made sufficient progress so as to be able to walk again. Then, his health took a serious downturn, and on March 24, he decided to cease active treatment for his compounding ailments and sought palliative care.
He died at 1:15 a.m. April 8, surrounded by his two sisters, Nicole and Louise; the director general of Marie-Clarac Hospital, Sister Pierre-Anne Mandato; the palliative chaplain, Rev. Jean-Marc Barreau; and his longtime secretary Pierrette Émard.
The attending physician, Dr. Maria Karas, lauded the way the cardinal lived his last days. “He always had a beautiful smile,” she told the media, “the cardinal really died with dignity.”