Mr. Speaker, I will not hide the fact that I am speaking today with a somewhat troubled heart. I want to speak to the proposal from the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.
I have long admired His Holiness Pope John Paul II. However, as the member for Beauport—Limoilou, I will not be supporting the idea of establishing a day in his honour.
As a devout Roman Catholic, I strive to follow Christ's example in my everyday life. But following that example is sometimes difficult, as evidenced by many events in His Holiness's life. Before I go any further, I would like to remind the House that Christ said that he did not come to bring peace to the world, but a sword.
I feel I can take the liberty of quoting Christ in the House because His Holiness Pope John Paul II came to Canada in 1984, when I was 17. It is no secret that it was an absolutely extraordinary moment. It moved people. Pope John Paul II had a strong personality; he had a real charisma, almost a magnetism, and he thrilled the crowds. It was incredible to see him in action.
However, I was elected to represent my constituents, just as my 307 colleagues represent Canadians across this country. Canada is vast and beautiful. It is multifaceted and its people have various faiths. I think we need to convey the message that we will maintain freedom of conscience for everyone in our country, no matter what they believe, and that includes those of different faiths, agnostics and non-believers.
I believe that establishing a day in Pope John Paul II's honour would send the wrong message. However, I understand why my colleague, who is of Polish descent, would introduce this bill in the House. Pope John Paul II was a hero who lifted the hearts of the Polish people; he was an inspiration. He also freed a people from unbearable oppression.
I think that the Catholic Church certainly has the ability to maintain and promote the work of John Paul II. I do not think it is the role of the Canadian government to do so. I do not want to get into a comparison of every pope in the succession of popes since Saint Peter, but I must admit that I am partial to recent popes. Take the example of John XXIII, who created the Second Vatican Council, and Leo XIII, whose letter, the encyclical Rerum Novarum, was the cornerstone of the Church's social doctrine, which flourished over a good part of the 20th century.
As I said, with a somewhat troubled heart, I had the pleasure of reading a number of encyclicals by His Holiness John Paul II. At the time, I even defended some of the pope's positions to my friends and acquaintances because the pope was very controversial in Quebec at that time. I remember how very divided people were. I remember theologists from Laval University spoke out against positions taken by His Holiness, particularly with respect to contraception.
This obviously had some unfortunate consequences. Regardless, I do not want to dwell on that. Those debates are over. I also do not want to bring up painful memories about His Holiness, because he did some very good work.
As I said, I do not believe it is the role of the government to recognize a specific pope among all of the popes in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church.
To support my position, I want to quickly talk about 12 other popes I greatly admire. There is obviously John XXIII, who created the Second Vatican Council, at the very beginning of his pontificate at the end of the 1950s, to the surprise of everyone, including the bishops and the Roman Curia. This council was truly a defining moment for the Catholic Church in the 20th century. It enabled His Holiness John Paul II and Benedict XVI, who was on the council at the time, to shape their ideas, make a name for themselves and make a contribution.
I will go further by saying that the pope that I admire the most is Leo XIII, who wrote and advocated the Rerum Novarum over 120 years ago. The Rerum Novarum was also a turning point for the Catholic Church at the time. This work is so significant that, on its 100th anniversary in 1991, His Holiness John Paul II recognized it in his encyclical, Centesimus Annus. His Holiness John Paul II recognized and supported social and economic justice, values that I share as a politician and a human being.
I will continue to speak about this well-known social doctrine of the Catholic Church, which His Holiness John Paul II also lived by, and to cite its noble tenets.
First, there is human dignity, which the Catholic Church did not necessarily recognize before this encyclical and before the church's social doctrine movement, which took off in the early 20th century.
Second, there is the common good. We are all part of the greater human community. We therefore have to think about all of our brothers. This was one of Christ's teachings. We are all responsible for our brothers and sisters in our society.
Third, is the principle of subsidiarity, according to which we must recognize that every human being on this earth and in our society makes an inalienable contribution that cannot be disputed.
Finally, there is also solidarity.
The fact that His Holiness John Paul II was a strong supporter and defender of these great values is a source of pride for the hon. member.
However, the fact remains that, as elected officials, we must make difficult choices. That is what I am doing. Although it breaks my heart a little, I think I am doing the right thing and I am calling on my colleagues to do the same. We need to think long and hard before moving forward with this.