It's Canada’s 150th birthday and for the next year, we are celebrating the anniversary of Canadian Confederation. You can’t talk about the contribution of the Catholic Church to Canada without looking back to the year 1984 when Pope-Mania swept over the country.It was one of the biggest events in Canadian history when on Sept 9th 1984, Pope John Paul II kissed the tarmac at the airport in Quebec City and kicked-off, the first ever papal visit in Canada. In the frenzied atmosphere of a rock concert, millions of Canadians flocked to stadiums, cathedrals and to parks across the country, to get a glimpse of the Holy Father and for a chance to be close to him. For 12 days in September of that year, JP2 visited 13 Canadian cities coast-to-coast in a whirlwind tour that took Canadians by storm, stirring millions with his condemnation of injustice & poverty, along with his traditional stance on birth control, divorce and of course, his message of hope: “Be Not Afraid, I Come Before You”. By the time the visit ended on September 20, the Pope traveled coast-to-coast and visited Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Montreal, St. John’s, Moncton, Halifax, Toronto, Midland, Winnipeg/St. Boniface, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Vancouver and Ottawa-Hull. He made more than 30, major addresses and left millions more in tears. Sadly though, severe weather conditions prevented him from meeting with Aboriginal Peoples from the North. However, he firmly promised to return again, which he surprisingly did, 3 years later in June of 1987 when he returned to Canada just to meet with the people of Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories. Now, unbeknownst to Canadians at the time, the Pope set the tone for his final trip to Canada, for the World Youth Day in 2002, when along with tens of thousands of young people in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium, the Pope used the future World Youth Day theme of salt and light to address his audience.
“I wish to speak to you about the light of Christ, because it is as a witness of the Redeemer that I have come before you. Listen to what I tell you: I am the light of the world. He who comes after me will not be walking in the shadows, there will be light to lead him to life. With joy I assure you all once again of my gratitude, and I renew from the bottom of my heart my good wishes for all the people of Canada."The first-ever Papal trip to this country in '84 was a memorable moment for all Canadians. It was bright light in the history of the Church in Canada.