By Hilary White

QUEBEC CITY, April 16, 2009 ( – Like the condemned and crucified Christ, the Catholic Church is being persecuted in the once highly religious province of Quebec because she “told the truth as received by God,” the Cardinal Archbishop of Quebec City has said.

In a recent interview Marc-André Séguin of Agence QMI asked the Cardinal whether the Catholic Church is persecuted in Quebec society. Marc Cardinal Ouellet, the Primate of Canada responded, “Sure, absolutely.”

“The Church bears witness to the Risen One, who is also the Crucified,” said Archbishop Ouellet. “Jesus was committed, he told the truth as he received from his Father. He said: I am the truth. Nobody in history has dared to say that. He was convicted and was crucified for it. Today, when someone dares to say certain truths, he has almost the same fate.”

Part of the problem is that Catholics in Quebec do not know their faith: “The level of religious ignorance is quite high,” he said. “It is a cultural challenge as well. It’s sad that new generations are so poorly informed on the religious, our religious tradition.”

The Church must undertake a “catechization,” a project of a “new evangelization.”

“We must teach the elements of faith,” the cardinal said. He pointed to the new course in “ethics and religious culture” that has been mandated by the Quebec Ministry of Education, Recreation and Sport and said that a biblical alternative should be offered.

“We must offer a choice between a course in biblical culture and the course of the State so that people have a choice and they discover the matrix of Western culture. Art, architecture, everything that exists as a monument, it is linked to Christianity. Democracy comes from Christianity. Many people ignore this.”

The cardinal’s comments come as reports are appearing in the Quebec press of a significant increase in people asking for certificates of “apostasy” from dioceses. According to figures the Quebec City chancery, this diocese alone has received fifty applications for formal apostasy in the last month.

According to the chancellor, Jean Pelletier, there are usually about twenty applications per year. The newspaper Le Devoir published one such certificate that had been signed by a group of 26 people. The chancellor of the archdiocese of Montreal, Michel Parent, told Le Devoir, “Whenever there is a speech [by the pope or Church authorities] that touches on controversial issues of moral behavior, we feel a surge.”

In 2007, the Quebec government imposed an obligatory course of studies in schools, which replaced courses in religious studies. This program is to be given to children starting in grade one and running to the end of high school. In this program, instruction equating homosexuality with normal family life is to be presented as early as grade one. Under ‘ethics’ for grades 1-2 the course is intended “to bring children to explore the diversity of relationships of interdependence between members of different types of families.”

For some years, Quebec has listed the lowest statistics in Canada for religious belief and practice. Approximately 83 percent of Quebec’s population call themselves Catholic, but a poll conducted on Canadian religious belief carried out in 2004 found that they lead the nation in considering religion unimportant in public and private life.

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