Pope John Paul II Day Act

An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.


Andrew Kania  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


In committee (House), as of Feb. 14, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment designates the second day of April in each and every year as “Pope John Paul II Day”.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2011 / 11 a.m.
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Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support the private member's bill put forward by my hon. colleague from Brampton West.

The bill creating Pope John Paul II Day is truly an important one, as Pope John Paul II was a transforming figure not just in his homeland of Poland but also throughout the world.

I have to say that it was a great pleasure for me as the chair of Exhibition Place in Toronto and a former city councillor there to play host for the World Youth Day. That was certainly a remarkable gathering of youth from all over the world. It was another initiative that His Holiness Pope John Paul II started during his papacy to bring youth from all over the world together in common prayer and thought, and in action. That event will always stick in my mind, the gathering of youth from different corners of the earth at Exhibition Place and then afterwards followed by a mass and service at Downsview Park.

I had the pleasure and honour of being there and working along with Father Thomas Rosica who was the CEO of Salt + Light Television, a network that does wonderful work throughout Canada in promoting the Christian, Catholic faith. Father Thomas Rosica played a truly tremendous role in hosting that particular event. I was pleased to work with him.

Certainly the response from people, regardless of faith, was always truly one of welcoming His Holiness and incredible cherishing of his presence, his magnetism and charisma.

He was the pope who transformed Europe to what we know today, not just with the fall of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism but also with his the ability to allow his people who had suffered so much to, as he famously said, “Be not afraid”, to be not afraid of totalitarianism, to be not afraid to speak out, to be not afraid to be a light in the darkness. Certainly he was that transformative figure who could inspire people to do amazing things and to be a leader for all.

Poland, with the Solidarity movement, in which he played such a major role, transformed the rest of what we know in Europe. However, it was his initiative and his imprint that we celebrate worldwide in recognizing this day.

He was also a man who reached out to people of different faiths. He was the first pope in the history of the Catholic Church to actually visit a synagogue, in Rome. He certainly held the role of Bishop of Rome very dear to his heart and reached out to the people of Rome, like no Pope before him. Being that particular transforming figure, going out to the people of Rome and the people of all faiths, is what makes him one of the most incredible men of the 20th century.

He was also the first pope to ever visit a mosque. It is, again, a tribute to his understanding and solidarity and friendship with people of different faiths, in extending a warm hand of friendship to all. Again this was important milestone for him as a world leader on stage to say that we want to be friends with everyone of all different faiths. I think it was an important and incredible milestone for us.

The other thing is that he was a pope who actually took his mission as a shepherd and a preacher of the gospel very seriously. He went to 129 different countries and attracted some of the largest crowds in history, such as five million people once in Manilla in 1985 and, of course, in Toronto there was about 800,000 people. Some estimated the crowd to be close to even a million people attending his event.

This bill, in recognition of John Paul II Day across Canada, is an important one. It gives credit to someone we consider to be one of the greatest humanitarians of the 20th century, a man of incredible courage and vision, somebody who transformed the world, who built relationships with countries all over the world and who also played a major role in peace negotiations.

I was always saddened by the fact that he never won the Nobel Peace Prize, but certainly nobody promoted more peace than John Paul II, not just in Europe but all over the world. I remember the times when there were skirmishes in Latin America. It was always his intervention that saved the day for certain countries in South America and Central America from actually going to war with their neighbours. He played a major role in all of those events.

Thus we are looking at a man of incredible faith, vision and passion, someone man who deeply cared about the world community. He was a shepherd of peace and a messenger of the gospel.

As we all know, Pope Benedict XVI has announced that Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1, 2011. People from all over the world will gather in Rome to celebrate this momentous event for this incredible man. In the history of the church, this is a very short period of time for somebody to be beatified. The fact he is going to be beatified and become Blessed John Paul II on May 1, 2011, is indicative of the incredible esteem with which he is held and how we all feel about this particular pope whom we really see as a saintly man. He will probably be considered, as I mentioned in this House on his passing, as John Paul the Great because he was one of the greatest popes in the history of Catholicism and, certainly, a transforming individual.

I am pleased to support the bill. The member for Brampton West has put an incredible amount of work into this and I want to commend him for that. His Polish background speaks also to the fact that he knows, from his ancestors and family members, what an important role John Paul II had in liberating the Polish people. However, at the end of the day, he was really a liberator for all of us, a man of all the people, a man for all seasons, as was said about Saint Thomas Moore. He was an incredible human being who deserves this incredible recognition, because he did transform Canada, the world, and history as we know it.

As I said before, I was deeply moved when I first saw him. I will never forget that moment in Downsview Park when I took communion from His Holiness. It was a transformative day for me. I remember getting there early in the morning. It was pouring rain, and just as he came out for the mass the sun came out. It was the most beautiful experience ever.

He was at that time quite frail. He was somebody who was not afraid to show his physical vulnerability and weakness. We always remember the images of him when he first came to Canada in 1984 as someone who was very strong with an incredible physical presence. Later in his life he became quite frail. He suffered from Parkinson's disease and other illnesses, but he never was afraid to show or accept his own frailty and illnesses, while also showing compassion and care for others.

He was also a pope who was a transformative figure in the church's two millennia of history. All of us remember the particular mass he celebrated when the Holy Door was opened to celebrate the second millennium of Christianity in the world. He was the Pope who launched the new millennium. We will always remember him for being probably one of the greatest popes in living memory.

I am proud to support this bill. I am very pleased that the member for Brampton West has put this bill forward.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2011 / 11:10 a.m.
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Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to be here today to further our discussion in support of Bill C-573 to designate April 2 of each year as Pope John Paul II Day.

Pope John Paul II was a remarkable man who was influential not only in the Catholic church but also in the global environment. During his 27 years as the Pope, he was an important advocate of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and co-operation.

In 1986, Pope John Paul II led a multifaith service with other leaders of the world's religions. This led to other interfaith services all over the world and to yearly interfaith prayers on the annual feast of Saint Francis.

In 1994, the Pope gave the inaugural address at the World Conference on Religion and Peace.

In January 2002, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, he convened a multifaith service that united 200 religious leaders from all over the globe. From this service, the leaders pledged that religion must never again be used to justify violence.

There are various other examples of the Pope's work on the world stage, where he served as a bridge-builder between cultures and religions.

I would like to talk about another important role he undertook, a role that Canadians recognize and applaud: his fight against oppression. Pope John Paul II was a man who fought oppression wherever and whenever he saw it. He was a man who understood from experience what happens to a person during the terror of war and the imposition of a totalitarian regime.

As a youth, Pope John Paul II was an athlete and an intellectual. He lived in a community with people of all different faiths, where he and his Jewish neighbours played football together. He enrolled in university at the age of 18. However, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, the university was closed shortly afterward and all able-bodied young men were forced into manual work. His call to priesthood came soon afterwards.

During his time as a priest, his compassion was evident when he helped a young Jewish refugee who had run away from a Nazi labour camp. She had collapsed on a railway platform and the young priest carried her onto the train and accompanied her to safety in Krakow. Many Polish Jews have said he was instrumental in protecting them and their families.

In 1978, when he was pope, he addressed the UN General Assembly and called on the world to fight for human rights. Not content with words alone, he went on a nine-day pilgrimage back to communist Poland. This trip ultimately led to many changes in that country: for the advocacy of and fight for freedom, for compassion and the offering of protection.

These are qualities that we Canadians believe in, as well. As a country that is defined by its bilingual, pluralist nature, we believe in freedom and we have fought to protect it.

Canadians also understand the importance of compassion. They know that compassion is nothing without action to back it up, the same type of action that we can see of Pope John Paul II.

During the fight for Vimy Ridge in World War I, 3,598 Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. We fought for freedom and we came together as a nation.

Canadians continued their fight for freedom through World War II right through to today, when our gallant men and women are fighting to bring freedom and human rights to the people of Afghanistan, especially the women and girls.

However, just like Pope John Paul II, we not only fight for freedom but also to protect those who are seeking to find freedom. Canada is proud to have a long humanitarian tradition of being a place of refuge and protection for victims of violence, persecution and conflict. The fight to protect freedom is a tradition that Canada has proudly maintained.

Through the periods of high immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Canada received hundreds of thousands of refugees from the oppression and terror behind the Iron and Bamboo Curtains, as well as from many other totalitarian and communist regimes.

In 1956, 40,000 Hungarians fled the soviet invasion of their country and found a safe, new beginning in Canada. In 1968, Canada welcomed thousands who fled the Soviet invasion of Prague. In 1979, when millions of Indochinese boat people had to flee oppression, they went through the United Nations and obtained refugee status. The UN called for help and Canada responded. Approximately 65,000 came to Canada.

Through the generosity of Canadian faith groups, doors were opened and newcomers were settled in Canada, and they continued to contribute to the cultural and economic life of our country.

One of our former prime ministers, John Diefenbaker, stated:

I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country.

As Mr. Diefenbaker added in his speech 50 years ago:

This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind

Canadians, just like John Paul II, are compassionate people who care about freedom and human rights. As a man many Canadians honour, admire and try to emulate, let us set aside a special day to honour and consider Pope John Paul II and his works.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2011 / 11:15 a.m.
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Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Madam Speaker, I am honoured to join the debate today to support my colleague from Brampton West who presented the motion.

I am proud to do so for a number of reasons, the first one being that I am Polish Canadian and, I believe, one of the first female Polish Canadian members of Parliament this House has seen. Therefore, I am very proud to stand and represent the Polish community and support Pope John Paul II, our pope.

Second, of course, is that I am a practising Roman Catholic and it is important that I stand up for the Roman Catholics in Canada.

It is important legislation that would celebrate the memory of Pope John Paul II day every April 2 on the anniversary of his death. He was beloved not only in Poland but internationally, in Canada and abroad, everywhere that he travelled. He was one of our most travelled popes.

Why do we designate days to celebrate the memory of great people such as John Paul II? We do it to acknowledge their significant accomplishments and their historical contributions to our country as well as to larger historical events.

He was a great man. Not only was he a scholar, he was a philosopher. He came from simple, humble beginnings in Poland as a priest and before that as an actor and a teacher. He was a charismatic and moral leader to, not only the Catholic community across the world, but to everyone.

Pope John Paul II reigned for 27 years, one of the longest reigns of any pope. He also was one of the youngest popes of the 20th century.

There are a number of reasons we should support the bill, many due to his great achievements. He was one of the architects of the defeat of Communism. He was one of the leaders of the solidarity movement, a very significant historical event, particularly to the Polish people. He is and remains a hero. He was the first non-Italian pope since the 15th century. There are over one million Polish Canadians in Canada who would celebrate this day each and every year.

He was a very accomplished pope. He had a large following of supporters and travelled around the world. He completed over 102 pastoral visits outside of Italy.

The pope first visited Canada in 1984 and had visited three times since. He came in 2002 on World Youth Day. I myself billeted a number of youth who came from the former eastern Europe to celebrate this day. Young people from all parts of the world gathered for World Youth Day at the Downsview Centre in Toronto. With their gifts of intelligence and heart, they represented the future of the world but they also bear the marks of humanity and that, too, often knows and understands peace and justice.

The pope said at that time, “Too many lives begin and end without joy and without hope.” However, he proved that there was hope in this world. That was one of the principal reasons for World Youth Day.

He spoke to us directly as Canadians. Canadians are heirs to an extraordinary, rich humanism, enriched even more by a blend of different cultural elements. However, the core of our heritage is the spiritual and transcendent vision of life based on Christian revelation, which gave vital impetus to our development as a free, democratic and caring society recognized throughout the world as the champions of human rights and human dignity.

I was astounded at how proud the youth were who attended World Youth Day, proud to be Catholics and proud to be there celebrating the pope who value the contributions that youth had made.

One of the other reasons of course was that the pope sought reconciliation for the Jewish community and opened a dialogue with many other faiths.

Those are some of the key reasons that I believe we should support John Paul II day. I hope there are other members of the House who will reach out and encourage all members to support this very important bill as well.

the Ontario legislature introduced a similar type of bill to honour Pope John Paul II. It had been introduced and had passed first and second reading but, unfortunately, died during prorogation. We are attempting to bring back this honour for Pope John Paul II for not only Ontarians but for all Canadians so that we can all celebrate.

In addition, I have attempted to described this man who has done great work. He has been recognized not only among his peers, Canadians and everyone across the world, but people in the church have extended to him the title of Venerable. Pope Benedict has placed this title upon him, which is one step toward sainthood. One step will be completed later this year. It is a two year process but it has been expedited so that this great glory will be placed upon our beloved pope.

As I mentioned earlier, he is one of the great reasons that communism had fallen non-violently in the Soviet Union. Quite unbelievably, the Soviet Union fell and communism fell without a single bullet being fired. Pope John Paul's 1979 trip to Poland was described as the fulcrum of revolution that led to the collapse of communism. As Timothy Ash put it, ”without the pope, no solidarity, without solidarity, no Gorbachev, without Gorbachev, no fall of communism”. Even Mikhail Gorbachev said that it would have been impossible without the pope. He credits John Paul II for being a key factor in the fall of the Soviet Union.

My very humble roots, as I described, also come form Poland. My family left Poland because of the scourge of communism and sought work and refuge in France. My grandfather served in a Polish division of the French army to fight against Hitler and did not return to Poland because of the rise of communism in the Eastern European Bloc. One of the major reasons we came to Canada was to seek freedom, and we have Pope John Paul II to thank for the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Another major accomplishment of the pope, with which nobody will disagree, was provide a bridge to bring in other religions. In 2003, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement congratulating Pope John Paul II on entering his 25th year of the papacy and complimenting him on his role in bridging the divide between the Jewish faith and the Catholic Church. It said, “More change for the better took place in his 27-year papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before”.

There are many other examples of that as well, many attempts to make a bridge to many other faith communities, especially with Muslim community. When Pope John Paul was in Casa Blanca August 19, 1985 in Morocco, he said:

Christians and Muslims, we have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the sane God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.

He reached out to the Muslim community when he was pope and he reached out to the Jewish community as well. He reached out to many communities. We know that in 1993 he held a meeting with over 120 religious leaders from around the world of different religions and different Christian denominations to foster some unity and respect among the various religious sects.

He was a well travelled man and a remarkable world leader. He was known as the travelling pope. He visited 129 countries and attracted some of the largest crowds in human history. As many as five million people came to see him in Manila in 1995. He came to Canada on more than one occasion. When he came in 2002 on World Youth Day, over 800,000 people came out to meet him and to pray with him. As Kofi Annan had said, “he is a tireless advocate for peace”.

When Pope John Paul II died, the outpouring of grief at his funeral showed how strong he was and how respected he was, both as a religious leader and, more important, as a world leader. At his funeral and his requiem mass on April 8, 2005, he was said to have set world records for both attendance and the number of heads of state who were present at the funeral. It was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, surpassing the funerals of Winston Churchill and other world leaders. Kings, queens and leaders of many countries were in attendance. It was one of the largest single pilgrimages of the time.

For this reason, and because of the great man he was, I hope everyone will join me and my colleague from Brampton West in supporting the bill to commemorate Pope John Paul II day.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2011 / 11:25 a.m.
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Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Madam Speaker, I had the honour of speaking to this matter before Christmas. I gave a lengthy speech and I will not repeat all of it now.

I highlighted the fact that Pope John Paul II fell into two separate categories, First, he was the leader of the Roman Catholic church and one of the leading popes in Roman Catholic history. The second is more secular. Pope John Paul II was a world leader onto himself.

Many people have commented upon the fall of communism and his role. I am a first generation Polish Canadian. My parents immigrated from Poland. My uncle and his family escaped Poland, with guards shooting at them across the border. Through my family and extended family who lived in Poland at the time, I know what it was like to live through communism. The end of communism was a celebration in Poland and eastern Europe, without parallel, and in the world generally speaking.

Pope John Paul II has been credited with being one of the key figures, if not the key figure, in the fall of communism. Many people, including Mikhail Gorbachev, said that without Paul John Paul II the fall of communism simply would not have been possible in the manner that it happened at that time.

I would like to update the House on what has occurred since I spoke to this matter last fall. Pope Benedict has declared that Pope John Paul II will be beatified on May 1 in Rome, a ceremony that millions of Catholics, including myself, are planning to attend. That is the final stage under the Roman Catholic religion before he becomes canonized and becomes a saint. That is of huge significance for the Roman Catholic church and for the Polish community generally. Over one million Polish Canadians live in Canada. We have a very large Roman Catholic population in Canada, which supports this proposed legislation.

I also want to give thanks to colleagues on all sides of the House who have spoken to the bill and have indicated they will support it. I consider this to be a non-partisan issue. Religious persons support my bill. Equally as moving for me is the fact that non-religious persons have come up to me and said that they will support it, either because they recognize the significance of John Paul in world history or because they recognize that in our society we respect divergent points of views and we have to support one another in these sorts of worthy endeavours, whether one agrees with everything someone may have said during the course of his or her life. I am very honoured and moved to support this.

From what I understand, thousands of Canadians have mailed in cards in support of the legislation. I thank all of those people who took the time to sign those cards.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

moved that Bill C-573, An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, you may recall these words spoken on October 16, 1978:

Dear brothers and sisters, we are still grieved after the death of our most beloved John Paul I. And now the eminent cardinals have called a new bishop of Rome. They have called him from a far country... far, but always near through the communion of faith and in the Christian tradition. (...) I don't know if I can make myself clear in your ... in our Italian language. If I make a mistake, you will correct me.

Those were the first words spoken by the new pope, Pope John Paul II, formerly Karol Wojtyla, the first Slavic pope in the history of the Roman Catholic church and a pope that reigned for 27 years, one of the longest reigns ever.

I am very honoured to speak to my private member's bill, which is an act to establish Pope John Paul II Day. In essence, it seeks that every April 2, the anniversary of his death, be a day of memory for Pope John Paul II from this point forward in Canadian history. This would not be a formal legal statutory holiday but simply a day of memory.

I have indicated before, and I mean this very sincerely, that I am very moved to introduce this bill, being a proud first generation Polish Canadian and practising Roman Catholic. Words cannot express the significance and importance of Pope John Paul II to the Polish community in particular around the world and in Canada.

There are over one million Polish Canadians in Canada. When Pope John Paul II was elected as pope we celebrated and cried, and when he died we mourned, but in between those dates, the Polish community watched his every move with pride and a sense of destiny.

It must also be remembered that Pope John Paul II is not simply an ordinary pope of the Roman Catholic church. He has now been given the title “venerable” by Pope Bénédict XVI, which is a step toward sainthood, a process which it is anticipated will be completed within one to two years.

Beyond his Polish and Roman Catholic faith, Pope John Paul II, now known as venerable, was a world statesperson. He was one of the architects of the defeat of communism. He must be remembered not only for his religious ties and role but for his worldwide historical influence. In terms of his role in the fall of communism, I have some quotes.

Canadian reporter Eric Margolis described going into the central committee's headquarters in Moscow after the election of Pope John Paul II this way:

I was the first Western journalist inside the KGB headquarters in 1990. The generals told me that the Vatican and the Pope above all was regarded as their number one, most dangerous enemy in the world.

They recognized even then that he would play a significant role in terms of being anti-communist, possibly leading toward the downfall of communism in the Soviet Union.

Former priest and writer James Carroll asked this question:

What is the greatest, most unexpected event of the 20th century?

Isn't it that the Soviet Empire was brought down non-violently? Isn't John Paul II's story part of it?

That really is a rhetorical question and the answer obviously is yes. If we think about it from the perspective of our generation which grew up with the Soviet Union, communism, détente and the threat of nuclear annihilation. There was the constant threat and worry as children about this potential fight between the west and the Soviet Union.

Quite unbelievably the Soviet Union fell without one bullet being fired. John Paul's 1979 trip to Poland is described as “the fulcrum of revolution which led to the collapse of communism”. Timothy Ash put it this way:

Without the pope, no solidarity. Without solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of communism.

In fact, Mikhail Gorbachev said, “It would have been impossible without the pope”. He credits Pope John Paul II for being the key factor in the fall of the Soviet Union.

In addition, I would like Canadians to understand exactly the scourge of communism. Here we read about it. Here we had the threat of nuclear war, but for the people who actually lived it, it was a new life when communism fell.

In my own family, my father grew up in Communist Poland before he managed to come to Canada. My uncle and his family told me stories of their escape from Poland, about going across the border and being shot at by the police. I remember my father sending money in envelopes to his family in Poland from Canada. They were very small amounts of money relatively speaking for us, but they were fortunes for people over there. However, they could not really use the money to buy things because they did not have things to buy in the same way as we do here.

This defeat of communism must always be remembered, and the role of Pope John Paul II in that defeat must be honoured and remembered. The yearning of freedom for Poland is where it started and it spread to the other eastern bloc countries. It began in 1979 with Pope John Paul II going to Poland and standing up to the Communist regime.

There is another major accomplishment of Pope John Paul II. Nobody will agree with everything that any leader does, which is to be expected, but he did bridge the divide between the Roman Catholic church and other religions. I would like to quote people who are not Roman Catholic to prove that point.

In October 2003, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement congratulating Pope John Paul II on entering his 25th year of the papacy and essentially complimenting him for his role in bridging the divide between the Jewish faith and the Roman Catholic church. Immediately after Pope John Paul II's death, the same Anti-Defamation League issued a statement that Pope John Paul II had revolutionized Catholic-Jewish relations saying that “more change for the better took place in his 27-year papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before”.

There are many other examples of his attempts to bridge with other faith communities. In terms of the Muslim community, Pope John Paul himself, when he was in Casablanca on August 19, 1985, during his journey to Morocco, said:

Christians and Muslims, we have many things in common, as believers and as human beings. We live in the same world, marked by many signs of hope, but also by multiple signs of anguish. For us, Abraham is a very model of faith in God, of submission to his will and of confidence in his goodness. We believe in the same God, the one God, the living God, the God who created the world and brings his creatures to their perfection.

He reached out to the Muslim community during the time he was pope. He reached out of course to the Jewish community. Pope John Paul II said to the Jewish community when he was at the great synagogue in Rome on April 13, 1986:

The Jewish religion is not ‘extrinsic’ to us, but in a certain way is ‘intrinsic’ to our own religion. With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.

He reached out to many other communities as well. On October 27, 1993 in Assisi he held a meeting of over 120 religious leaders from around the world, from different religions and Christian denominations, to try to foster some unity and respect among various religions and sects.

He did more during the time he was Pope to bridge the divide between the Roman Catholic church and to show respect for other religions and other faith communities than, I would argue, any other pope in history.

Pope John Paul II as a person, as a man, was a remarkable world leader. He was known as the travelling pope. He visited 129 countries and he attracted some of the largest crowds in human history, such as over five million people in Manila in 1995. He came to Canada on more than one occasion. When he came to Toronto in 2002, over 800,000 people came out to meet him and to pray with him.

When Pope John Paul II passed away, there were numerous quotes.

Everybody will remember Lech Walesa as the hero and the leader of the solidarity movement in Poland. In referring to Pope John Paul II, he said that without him “there would be no end of communism or at least much later and the end would have been bloody”.

Former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan called the pope a “tireless advocate of peace”, while German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose own country was long held under the oppressive forces of communism, said,“Pope John Paul II wrote history. By his efforts and through his impressive personality, he changed our world.

Former Israeli president Moshe Katsav said that the pope “bravely put an end to historic injustice by officially rejecting prejudices and accusations against Jews”.

On his death, he was honoured with one of the largest funerals in human history. What we are really talking about here is the people of Canada providing some respect, honour and memory for Pope John Paul II. We have done it before. For example, we granted honorary Canadian citizenship to the Dalai Lama.

The Americans honoured Pope John Paul II. In 2004 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest civilian honour the United States awards to anyone.

In Ontario this bill passed first reading and perhaps even second reading. There was a similar bill to get an honour for Pope John Paul II. Unfortunately it died on prorogation. We are attempting to bring this honour to Pope John Paul II across Canada.

When Pope John Paul II died, the outpouring of grief and his funeral itself showed how strongly he was respected both as a religious leader but equally important as a world leader. At his funeral, his requiem mass on April 8, 2005 was said to have set world records for both attendance and the number of heads of state present at a funeral. It was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, surpassing the funerals of Winston Churchill and other world leaders, such as Tito. Four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other world religions were in attendance.

Many people say it is also likely to have been the largest single pilgrimage of Christianity in history. More than four million people from around the world came to Rome for the requiem mass.

This man must always be remembered and respected for many different reasons. I ask my colleagues to help me bestow this honour upon him in a non-partisan way, and to make April 2, the anniversary of his death, a day of memory each year.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:30 p.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand here next to my colleague who made an incredible speech, one that is very touching about a man who inspired the world, as he pointed out. One of the things, among many, that inspired me about Pope John Paul II was his ability to reach out, to go to all these countries so that people could actually touch, feel and see the pope as an individual. But more than that, he inspired so many people.

He came to Newfoundland and Labrador many years ago and inspired us. He came to this country, as my colleague pointed out, on several occasions. His ability to do that brought the Roman Catholic Church out to the people who are members all over the world, and by doing so he has made the world a much better place as a result of it. It is truly an inspiration, which was shown, as my colleague pointed out, when one of the greatest Christian pilgrimages of all time was to go to Rome to attend his requiem mass.

I would like my colleague to touch on, once again, and perhaps explore further the idea of just how far he would go, to what great lengths he would go, in order to bring the Roman Catholic Church from the Vatican out to the world.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:30 p.m.
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Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, throughout my life, from when Pope John Paul II was elected pope, we watched him travel to a record number of countries. I think the number was 129 countries. We watched him going before and praying with millions and millions of people. Imagine having a mass in a country such as Manila with five million people attending. Considering the size of Toronto in 2002, imagine having 800,000 people in one location coming to see him and pray with him.

This was a pope who will go down in history as not only one of the greatest popes, but one of the greatest world leaders, somebody who did try to reach out to different communities and different religions and show respect. He did not go around saying that the Roman Catholic Church was right and other religions were wrong. He went around saying let us work together and try to be good, help and respect one another and show love and compassion. This is a pope who is missed, and this is a pope who will always be remembered. In terms of the Roman Catholic Church, he is already on his way to becoming a saint. This is not simply an ordinary pope.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
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Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is not specific to my colleague's motion, but I wonder if he has considered that the problem we are going to have with motions naming certain days in Canada after certain leaders, religious figures and whatnot, is where the line gets drawn. Who do we say we name a day after and who do we not? We would fill up the whole calendar. What criteria is the member suggesting be used? Is it prominence? Is it the particular person's influence on Canada? Is it religious significance?

What I am trying to understand in the motion is what principle the member is putting forward that would then guide future Parliaments and future decision makers about who to have days named after and so on.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
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Andrew Kania Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to respectfully point out to my friend that this is a private member's bill, not a motion. However, in terms of answering his question, in terms of setting standards, each case would have to be decided on its own merits and basis. I do not think we could have one standard that would apply to everyone at all times. The answer to this question would be that we would know it when we saw it.

We had no difficulty bestowing the honour upon the Dalai Lama in terms of becoming an honorary Canadian citizen. So if we look at the facts of this case, in terms of religious significance and the fact that he is a world leader who helped to end communism and the fact that, already with the title of venerable, he is on his way to sainthood, respectfully, in this case it is clear that we know it when we see it and this case is obvious.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:35 p.m.
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Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak today about Bill C-573 that seeks to designate April 2 of each year as Pope John Paul II Day.

Pope John Paul II had influence that extended well beyond the doors of the church. He was revered and admired by people of many different faiths, and the impact of his actions is still being felt around the world.

During his lifetime, John Paul II worked to further understanding and co-operation among people of different faiths. His legacy is a new global movement of interfaith dialogue. People of different religions are focusing on the values they have in common while forging new ties and lasting relationships.

In his years as pope, he visited 129 countries and redefined the papacy for a modern age. Three of those trips were taken here to Canada. He was in fact the first pope to visit Canada, and one of his many gifts was his ability to reach out to people of other faiths and inspire reconciliation after centuries of hostility and suspicion.

Pope John Paul II was a man of action as well as a man of words. He was the first pope to enter a Jewish synagogue. He was the first pope to enter a mosque. He initiated and participated in many events and conferences and promoted a message of peace and harmony among different religions.

In October 1986, the pope convened and led a multifaith service involving leaders of the world's religions. During this conference he said:

I wish to make an earnest call to everyone, Christians and the followers of other religions, that we all work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life, and grows in solidarity and justice.

The event led to interfaith activities all over the world and to yearly interfaith prayer on the annual feast of Saint Francis.

In 1994, the pope gave the inaugural address at the World Conference on Religion and Peace, an organization led by a UN-accredited global movement dedicated to co-operation among the world's religions for peace, all the while maintaining respect for the religious differences contained within this group.

In January 2002, following the terror attacks of 9/11, Pope John Paul II convened a multifaith service that united 200 religious leaders from all over the globe so that we could have a day of prayer for the world in crisis. During that day-long retreat, these leaders agreed on a joint 10-point pledge that proclaims that religion must never be used again to justify violence on this planet.

These are only a few examples of his efforts for interfaith dialogue. His ground-breaking overtures towards other world religions were unprecedented. Complemented by his efforts to achieve unity among Christian denominations, these efforts have spawned a variety of organizations that promote further dialogue and common action.

On the world stage, Pope John Paul II was a diplomat of peace and a supporter of diversity. Canada continues to build an inclusive society that values differences and fosters a sense of belonging. Pope John Paul II lived by and advocated these same principles that we treasure in Canada.

Pope John Paul II made a lasting impact on our country. During the first of his three official visits, in 1984, he made a 12-day pilgrimage across Canada. He visited eight provinces, and this tour was the longest he made to any single country on the planet.

His second visit to Canada was in 1987. The primary purpose for this visit was to fulfill a promise he made to visit Fort Simpson, a remote community, showing that he cared not only about large historic cities but also about small villages where the common people live.

The pope's third visit to Canada was in 2002, when he attended the 17th World Youth Day festivities in Toronto. World Youth Day assembled more than 350,000 pilgrims from across the globe to Canada. The concluding outdoor mass in Downsview, Ontario, attracted one of the largest gatherings in Canadian history. The crowd numbered more than 800,000 people. The response of the young people was full of enthusiasm, love and respect for the man and the office. This would be the last time that Pope John Paul II attended World Youth Day events.

Throughout the pope's travels, people were very taken by the man himself, for this man exuded warmth and a generosity of spirit and he was genuinely concerned for all people on this planet.

The world's reaction to his death is a strong indication of the esteem in which he was held and how he reached people from all religions and backgrounds.

Upon his death, Pope John Paul II was mourned by people around the world, and it is estimated that two million people made the pilgrimage to Vatican City to pay their respects. From presidents and prime ministers to kings and queens, dignitaries from 138 countries were present at his funeral. This is a true testament to the pope's global impact and reach.

Another testament to his global impact is the presence of many national and municipal public projects, airports, parks, squares, schools, roads and avenues that are all named in his honour. There is even a peninsula in Antarctica that is named after Pope John Paul II for his contribution to world peace and understanding among people.

We are very fortunate that in this country Canadians of all faiths are encouraged to follow the religious practices of their own choosing. We are a country of many faiths. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and many others are free to celebrate their holy days without fear of persecution. Our calendar reflects many of these holidays. Days like Good Friday, Easter Monday and Christmas Day are statutory holidays. But in more recent years here in Canada, other faith holidays like the month of Ramadan, the Jewish high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and the festival of Diwali in the Sikh and Hindu faiths are now recognized and observed by an ever-expanding number of Canadians.

Declaring Pope John Paul II Day in Canada would recognize a leader who advocated understanding and acceptance of people of all faiths and backgrounds, a man who initiated a global movement of interfaith dialogue, who had a lasting impact on Canada and the rest of the world, and a man whose message mirrors Canada's own experiences with diversity, both cultural and ethnic.

Canada has a history of recognizing outstanding world leaders. Raoul Wallenberg, who was instrumental in ensuring the safety of more than 100,000 Hungarian Jews during the Holocaust, was granted a special day of recognition and was also granted honorary citizenship.

Honorary citizenship has also been granted to other world leaders, including Nelson Mandela and Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. In 2007, Aung San Suu Kyi, while still under house arrest, was awarded honorary citizenship for her fight for democracy in Burma. On November 13, 2010, Aung San Suu Kyi was released after 7.5 years of house arrest. Upon her release, her message to her followers was not one of revenge. It was one seeking national reconciliation. She embodies the same values that Canada promotes and, much like John Paul II, she is a world leader who advocates non-violence and equality for all.

By recognizing Pope John Paul II Day, we can encourage Canadians across this great nation to embrace diversity, respect people of other faiths and celebrate what truly unites us as Canadians.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:45 p.m.
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Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking about Bill C-573, which is titled An Act to establish Pope John Paul II Day. It was introduced in the House by the Liberal member for Brampton West and would establish April 2 as Pope John Paul II Day.

The Bloc Québécois supports this bill and sees it as a tribute to the considerable role that John Paul II played internationally as a promoter of peace.

The Bloc Québécois would also like to use this bill as an opportunity to highlight the Polish community's contribution to modern Quebec, for one, and its role in Quebec culture. I am thinking, for example, of Alice Parizeau, Jacques Parizeau's late wife, and Bernard Adamus, who was recently named the 2010 new artist of the year and received his Félix award last week at the ADISQ gala.

The Bloc Québécois would also like to acknowledge the contribution made by Catholics in building Quebec, despite abuses in the church's dogma concerning the rights of women and homosexuals and despite having hidden cases of pedophilia in the church.

John Paul II spoke about the fact that doing good deeds does not come naturally. He was absolutely correct, and I should say that his quote on this topic is one of my favourites.

Karol Józef Wojtyla was born in Poland on May 18, 1920, and died in the Vatican on April 2, 2005, the date to be commemorated by this bill. He was a priest in Poland, became the Bishop and Archbishop of Krakow, was elevated to Cardinal, and was elected Pope of the Roman Catholic Church on October 16, 1978, choosing the name John Paul II.

His pontificate lasted 26 years and was the third-longest in the history of the Church, following that of St. Peter and of Pius IX, which was 31 years.

His desire to reconcile different faiths led to a marked improvement in the Catholic Church's relations with Jews, members of the Orthodox Church and Anglicans. He initiated the first interfaith gathering at Assisi in 1984, bringing together more than 194 religious leaders.

This travelling pope visited more than 129 countries during his pontificate, was seen by more than 150 million people, and established major gatherings such as World Youth Day. He beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints, more than in the previous five centuries.

He defended the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, in which he had participated as a bishop. His desire to defend human dignity led him to promote human rights. He opposed communism and his actions, especially in Poland, led to the fall of the Iron Curtain. He also attacked the excesses of capitalism.

According to Wikipedia, John Paul II is considered one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century and, I would add, an ambassador of peace.

But his work for peace is not finished. The Catholic church suffers from serious flaws and iniquities that alienate people who believe in equality and social justice.

Three serious flaws still mar this great international institution.

The first, and perhaps the least serious of the three, is the requirement that priests be celibate. This is an anachronistic requirement whose usefulness has never been proven, but it has long made the church a refuge for men who do not want to marry women.

The sordid cases of pedophilia in the Catholic church—which have been documented and proven and in some instances have gone to court—are too numerous to be ignored. The international community is still waiting for the Vatican to make a public confession and an act of contrition and take real, transparent steps with the legal authorities in every country affected, in addition to promising that this will never happen again.

Moreover, the Catholic church still does not consider women to be equal to men. Still today, in 2010, it is one of the few institutions where the fact that women cannot hold the same positions as men is tolerated: no female priests, no female cardinals, no female popes. It is forbidden.

It is incomprehensible that in 2010, we should allow an institution that is such an integral part of our communities and our parishes to so blatantly flout rights as fundamental as male-female equality.

The bill introduced by the member for Brampton West would establish a day to recognize Pope John Paul II for being an ambassador of peace. If ever there were a pope who put an end to the anachronistic abuses I just spoke of and restored respect and human dignity, he would deserve a week at the very least.

When we look at everything that still remains to be done in the Catholic church and everything that has not been done over the centuries, we can see that John Paul II was right when he said, “Good, in fact, is not easy.”

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
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Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity this evening to speak to this bill and its subject, John Paul II. I remember being at his funeral, reflecting on the plain wooden casket and thinking how appropriate for him, a humble servant. I remember the two million mostly young people attracted to how he lived out a set of values inspired by the gospels and the social gospels.

We have a wonderfully effective relationship in Canada between church and state unlike that of the United States, where separation is enshrined in the constitution. There is this respectful, honest and direct dialogue that serves us well.

We honour and listen to and converse with all faiths and religions. We give no one tradition or denomination precedence over another. Each has a place at the table.

There are many wonderful world leaders to inform and inspire us. I think of Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Aung San Suu Kyi. Some of them we have made honorary citizens.

I know there is a tradition in my Catholic church to have feast days for saints. However, we are the national government and act on behalf of all the people.

John Paul II lived his life out of a very clear set of values. The most obvious ones for me were his call to reconciliation, forgiving and healing. He forgave personally the man who tried to kill him. His commitment to peace and his stance as a world leader against the war in Iraq was inspirational and instructive. The way he carried himself in his latter years spoke to his great respect for all of humanity however frail or infirm.

He also, however, presided over an institution that, as we have come to see, was flawed and imperfect. I do not think he would be comfortable with the designation proposed here today, given his obvious humility and his penchant for challenging governments that did not, or do not, understand the importance of the values he so obviously espoused, as I said, peace, reconciliation and respect for all humanity.

We do not have a formal separation of church and state in Canada. However, there is a respectful dialogue and distancing at times on issues such as human rights, women's rights, the rights of gays and lesbians. I do not think John Paul II would want to be that closely aligned and I do not think it is healthy to give special recognition to the leader of one faith tradition, however revered by the world he or she served in.

I remember standing in Saint Peter's Square with all the world's leaders, civic and religious, paying respect to this very human and humble shepherd. I thought, wow, as I felt the waves of emotion back and forth from the front to the back and back again every time his name was mentioned.

Let us leave it there to be thought about by the world. Allow it to inspire us to continue his obviously unfinished work but not tie it to one day, or one country or one government.

Because of his struggles in his early years with the people of Poland, his willingness to stand up for what he believed in, that belief rooted in meditation and prayer, his obvious human limitations and frailty and willingness to forgive and reconcile in the interest of healing and all of humanity, for me, qualifies him as a mystic activist out there with people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Nelson Mandela, Elie Wiesel, Dorothy Day, Jean Vanier and the so many other men and women who have lived lives of struggle and meaning.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
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John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Brampton West for bringing this bill forward. It is a worthy debate.

The role of religious figures in a pluralist society is an important debate and one that I believe our so-called secular Canadian society needs to address. I say “so-called secular society” because polls indicate that well over 80% of Canadians have some form of faith expression and, indeed, well over 30%, on a weekly basis, participate in some form of religious activity.

Pope John Paul II was one of the 20th century's most important historical and religious figures. He lived life large and his life bears examining by even those of us who are not Catholic.

He made an immense contribution to interfaith dialogue, including overt efforts to reach out to the Muslim community, to the Jewish community and to the Orthodox faith community. He was a world traveller. He visited over 129 countries, including Canada. I was privileged to hear him speak at the World Youth Day on the Downsview Lands, with something in the order of 800,000 other people. I was also privileged to be part of the greeting party at Pearson airport.

He was an overt Christian and a staunch moral voice in the face of the brutalities of Nazism and Communism. Yet John Paul II challenged a secular Canadian society like few others. His challenges were not always welcome. His ethic of life challenged those who promoted capital punishment, abortion and euthanasia. He alienated many by his refusal to include women in the structure of the Catholic church. He defended the celibacy of the priesthood, even while many were being accused of deviant sexuality. His stand against homosexual marriage was not well received.

Pope John Paul II can be criticized for many things. There are those who dismiss him as being out of touch with modernity. I am not one of them. My guess is that Pope John Paul II did not view modernity as an important touchstone.

Our current Canadian society has a very immature understanding of the historic role of faith leaders in our society. William Wilberforce, for instance, challenged the British society and challenged its core economic underpinnings over a course of 20 to 30 years in the parliament of Great Britain until, finally, slavery was abolished. Similarly, Desmond Tutu challenged the core values of an apartheid society. Martin Luther King challenged the core racism that permeated the United States.

All of these men moved their societies in directions that their societies did not want to go on the basis of their prophetic vision. Sometimes they paid for their vision with ridicule, sometimes with hostility and sometimes with their lives. Each was profoundly Christian and each was deeply flawed. God, for some reason, does not choose the perfect to do His work here on this earth. For whatever reason, He chooses the imperfect and sometimes the deeply flawed to speak out.

Pope John Paul II, the successor to St. Peter, was an imperfect man, as was St. Peter. After all, St. Peter denied his association with Christ three times prior to the crucifixion. King David, the patriarch of the Jews, was an adulterer who tried to arrange for the murder of his lover's husband. St. Paul was a vigilante hunting down Christians before he had his road to Damascus experience. Many of Muhammad's “peace be upon him” teachings have been roundly criticized by modern scholars.

The point is that all three monotheistic religions have been led by human beings whose lives have not always been exemplary. For whatever reason, God seems to like it that way. In a strange sort of way, that is quite encouraging for those of us who do not live exemplary lives.

That brings me back to John Paul II. Criticism of his life by faith and non-faith people alike miss the point. By anyone's standards, he lived a remarkable life, and against all kinds of pressure, he spoke with power and authority into the depths of people's lives. He challenged the 21st century like no one else. He was called to speak with a prophetic voice and he disturbed us all in our comfort zones.

Canadians have a deep-seated ambivalence to religious leaders. Very few would darken the door of a church, let alone a Baptist church. Yet a few years ago, a Baptist minister was voted the most popular Canadian ever. John Paul II's church is in precipitous decline in some parts of our country, yet millions came to hear him preach around the world and indeed in Toronto.

I believe that if we look at the life of John Paul II, we will find a prophetic voice and great Christian, a flawed but great man.

Our own age is beset by serious challenges. We look in vain for voices of moral leadership. Canada has traditionally provided that voice through, for example, leadership in peacekeeping and championing nuclear non-proliferation. But as Jeffrey Sachs recently remarked, these days Canada has a wobbly moral compass.

There are those who will disagree with John Paul II's positions on various issues, but his legacy is bigger than any one issue or debate. It is a legacy of a man of virtue who had the courage to stand for what he believed was good and moral in the face of opposition, a man who never shied away from following the direction of his moral compass.

By creating a day to celebrate such a man, we encourage others to follow in his footsteps and to be the moral leaders that their communities so urgently need. Therefore I believe that this bill is worthy of our support.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 7 p.m.
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Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to be here to speak with you and my colleagues about Bill C-573, which seeks to designate April 2 of each year as Pope John Paul II Day.

John Paul II served as the pope of the Roman Catholic Church from October 16, 1978 until his death on April 2, 2005. He played an influential and vital role, promoting international understanding, peace-building, and helping defeat communism in Poland. He was a remarkable man of many accomplishments, who has left a permanent mark upon the world.

Pope John Paul II touched the lives of millions of people and was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He is also known for his work with youth. He is called by some the pope for youth.

In 1986, he established World Youth Day with the intention of bringing young people from all parts of the world together. This global movement has transformed into week-long meetings held every two or three years and attracting hundreds of thousands of young people. The pope won their hearts and minds because of his belief in their ability to change the world for the better, and his respect for them.

Canada is recognized as a world leader in bridging different communities from different backgrounds. Our country is respected and admired internationally for its fundamental characteristics of multiculturalism and multi-faith. Canada currently celebrates many religious holidays. Some are legislated, such as Good Friday and Easter Monday and Christmas Day. Other religious holidays, widely observed in Canada, include Ramadan, the commemoration of Mohammed's reception of the divine revelation recorded in the Koran; Eid al-Adha, the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice; Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights; Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement; and Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.

Every day, religious and cultural communities celebrate their culture and their faith. This freedom provides Canadians across the country with a sense of belonging, pride, and attachment to this beautiful country that respects and accepts all religions and cultures as equal.

Like our country, Pope John Paul II is recognized internationally as a leader who advocated the understanding and acceptance of people of all faiths and backgrounds, and who was known for his work in interfaith dialogue. During his visits to 129 different countries around the world, Pope John Paul II met with the Coptic oope, Pope Shenouda III, and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria. He was also the first pope in history to pray in Islamic mosques, at the Western Wall, and in synagogues. He called for Muslims, Christians, and Jews to work together toward peace, mutual understanding, and unity.

Pope John Paul II convened and led many multi-faith prayer services involving over 200 religious leaders from 16 churches and ecclesial communities, urging everyone to work together to build a world without violence, a world that loves life and grows in solidarity and justice.

There are many national and municipal projects that are named in Pope John Paul II's honour, including airports, parks, squares, schools, roads, and avenues. A peninsula in Antarctica, as was mentioned earlier, is named after John Paul II for his contribution to world peace and understanding among people.

Canada has always been dedicated to supporting commemorations and celebrations, recognizing that those celebrations contribute to the identity, the cohesion, and the sense of belonging of Canadians.

In addition to designating special days, Canada has also used the granting of honorary Canadian citizenship to recognize international world leaders who embody the values that Canada stands for. To date the following people have been granted this honour: In 1985, Raoul Wallenberg, in recognition of his heroism during the Holocaust; in 2001, Nelson Mandela for his leadership and his fight for equality and human rights; in 2006, the 14th Dalai Lama; in 2007, Aung San Suu Kyi, still under house arrest, for her leadership, peace-building, promotion of democracy, and defence of human rights; and in 2009, the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims and an active philanthropist.

Recognizing Pope John Paul II Day in Canada would commemorate a world leader who advocated for understanding and acceptance of people of all faiths and backgrounds. The day would highlight the Pope's vital role in ending communism in Poland and his leadership in interfaith dialogue. It would be in line with the pope's widespread international recognition.

For all these reasons, I urge my fellow members of the House to support this legislation.

Pope John Paul II Day ActPrivate Members' Business

November 16th, 2010 / 7:05 p.m.
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Oxford Ontario


Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-573, calling on the government to designate the second day of April in each and every year as the National Pope John Paul II Day.

Pope John Paul II is without doubt a figure who has a strong influence, not just here in Canada, but in the rest of the world as well. He was unpretentious, close to the people and was a champion of multiculturalism, bringing people from different religions closer together.

His difficult childhood and inner strength undoubtedly contributed to his empathy with others. The pope was born in Poland in 1920 and his early years were marked by many difficult events. His mother died when he was just nine years old and his older brother's untimely death a few years later was followed by his father's death in 1941, forcing him at an early age to learn to deal with loss and grief.

These unfortunate events took place during a difficult time in history. Poland had just lost its autonomy and joined a communist totalitarian regime. During these years of war, Pope John Paul II began his studies in Cracow but was forced to suspend them for a year of compulsory labour for the state. He later returned to his studies while working in a quarry and then in a factory. We can only imagine what he went through.

During the war, he began to express himself through cultural activities such as theatre and poetry. These difficult experiences during the pope's early life undoubtedly contributed to making him the man he became, a pope recognized and respected throughout the world, a champion of the poor and of human rights, a dedicated and sensible man who was very down to earth, deeply spiritual, and extremely determined.

Pope John Paul II's influence can be felt in many ways across all age groups and cultures. His message of love and peace transcended borders and broke down barriers. He was especially concerned with young people and the poor. This is why the pope established World Youth Day during spontaneous youth gatherings in Rome in 1986. The objective of this day dedicated to youth, actually a number of days today, is to empower youth and promote solidarity and openness to other cultures. This day is celebrated every year in all Catholic dioceses around the world.

In 2002, the pope visited Canada for the third and last time during the 17th World Youth Day, which was held in Toronto July 18 to 28. Over 350,000 pilgrims, including 200,000 young people from 150 different countries around the world, took part in this event. On the last day, the pope also celebrated a mass attended by over 800,000 people. Illness had already begun to take its toll on the pope, but his advanced years did nothing to diminish the passion of his speech. Young people participated in great numbers and were extremely impressed with the model of courage and hope that Pope John Paul II provided.

The pope loved to meet people and was an excellent speaker. During his time as pope, he made 200 trips abroad and visited 129 countries, including Canada, which he visited three times, in 1984, 1987, and 2002.

Pope John Paul II was a promoter of tolerance and helped to increase dialogue between various religions. From the very first few months of his time as Pope, he promoted respect for all religious beliefs. He did so in 1979 during his first official trip to Poland, and in the same year in Turkey, he established the first connections with Muslim communities. Over the years, he built bridges between the heads of the largest religions. In 1986, he was the first Pope to pray in a synagogue in Rome; the first to visit a Muslim country; to visit a mainly orthodox country, Romania; to visit Israel, where no Pope had gone for 30 years; and to visit a mosque in Syria.

The pope brought together nearly 200 representatives from all continents and religions, including Orthodox and Protestant Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs.

This dedicated man also defended peace with respect to politicians. In 1982, he granted an audience to Yasser Arafat, then head of the Palestine Liberation Organization. He also welcomed Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989, and defended freedom of religion and conscience in the U.S.S.R.. In 1998, he travelled to Cuba and met with Communist leader, Fidel Castro. He also spoke on many occasions to officials from world organizations, particularly at the United Nations General Assembly in 1979 and 1995, and at the UNESCO General Assembly in 1980.

He defended democracy before the European parliament by supporting the arrival of a democratic regime in the Philippines, and he worked for peace with various countries, urging them to negotiate and find common ground. This was the case in a variety of situations, including Chile and Argentina, Israel and Palestine, and even our neighbours, the United States and Iraq.

Like Canadians, the pope was an ardent defender of human rights, encouraged respect for beliefs and valued cultural differences.

I believe establishing a Pope John Paul II day would help Canadians remember the pope's commitment to defending the principles of an inclusive society and strengthen our own sense of belonging.

I will support Bill C-573 which calls on the government to designate April 2 in each and every year as Pope John Paul II Day.

I need to go back over some of the things I previously mentioned because it is important to understand the wide variety of things in which the pope was very active. He brought not only Canadians but people from around the world into closer touch with one another. It did not really matter whether it dealt with religion or nationalities, he was a bridge that brought people together.

Perhaps one of the more important aspects in the life of Pope John Paul II was his dealings with young people who over the years have lost their way and have lost touch with religion. I recall when Pope John Paul II was in Toronto and all of the young people who came forward on world youth day. I think all of us were purely amazed that one human being, who was in this country at that time, brought all these young people together for a cause that they perhaps would not have felt otherwise inclined to do. I think it was the man who truly made the difference.

I hope that all colleagues in the House will support Pope John Paul II day.