Friday, January 18, 2008

Pope Ratzinger to Quebec City: "Sorry, I have to wash my hair"

Some of my work as a historian deals with commemorations, and so I've been keeping an eye on the plans for Quebec City's 400th anniversary celebrations. The 300th anniversary celebrations were a big to-do in 1908, and were later the subject of H.V. Nelles' award-winning book The Art of Nation-Building. Concordia University historian Ron Rudin has been keeping an eye on the 400th anniversary celebrations as part of a larger project which started with the 2004 celebrations of the 400th anniversary of the founding of settlements in Acadia.

The organizers seem to be having a rough time of it. First the Queen didn't get invited for fear of controversy, and now Pope Benedict XVI - who will be traveling to both the US and Australia in upcoming months - has indicated that he won't be able to come and celebrate mass on the Plains of Abraham, citing health concerns.

On a purely voyeuristic level, I'm rather disappointed that he won't be coming. Lord only knows what deeply offensive statements the pope would have made in a province which has almost completely shucked off its Catholic heritage since the 1960s - a province which was among the first to recognize gay civil unions, was among the first to accept gay marriage, and where even heterosexuals prefer to live in common law arrangements. I'm sure it would have been a barn-burner!

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