(LifeSiteNews) — A Marian shrine in Toronto that has received tremendous support from local Catholics amid the possibility of selling and destroying the site was voted to be considered as a designated heritage site by the city council.
Through a motion that was passed earlier today, the Marian Shrine of Gratitude moved one step closer to being protected from plans to sell and eventually demolish the monastery. The plans were confirmed by the Order of St. Basil the Great of St. Josaphat, which owns the site, on August 15.
The motion to consider sparing the shrine was introduced by Anthony Perruzza, a councillor in the City of Toronto, and was unanimously passed during a City Council meeting today.
“The site has been registered as a heritage site, but the motion seeks [city] staff to get on with it and do the review required to designate it as a Heritage site,” Perruzza said at the meeting. Then, reading from one of two circulating petitions to protect the monastery, he said, “it has touched the lives of thousands of Torontonians for nearly two decades.”
“Visitors turn to the Marian Shrine of Gratitude at some of the most difficult times in their lives. Many share beautiful stories of how the shrine helped them through tragedies and heartbreak, gave them hope and strength and turned their sad tales into beautiful endings.”
“This shrine is not only significant to the devoted, Speaker, it is important to all of us. At a time when the world seems particularly cruel and dark, our lives need more meaning, not less. We need more places that bring us together when we feel alone. Meaningful places should be protected, not shut down.”
Perruzza concluded by saying he was “going to make it 1,356 [signatures] and add my name to the petition as well.”
The council then took a “recorded vote on receiving the petition,” which “carrie[d] unanimously” with 21 votes in favor.
According to information shared with LifeSiteNews by St. Bernadette’s Family Resource Center founder and director Angela Carboni, the passed motion was the first step in several to obtain complete protection from demolition.
Future steps include city staff determining whether the monastery qualifies for the designation as outlined in the Ontario Heritage Act and having a report of recommendation submitted to the Toronto City Council, if the staff supports this based on their review. The same report will then be sent to the Toronto Preservation Board for its opinion on the matter, followed by a review by the Planning and Housing Committee and finally reaching the City Council.
While the Council holds authority to approve the shrine for designation, the decision to do so remains subject to appeal through the Ontario Land Tribunal. If appealed, the Tribunal’s decision is final.
The City of Toronto website further explains that “Section 27 of the Ontario Heritage Act gives municipalities the authority to maintain and add to a publicly accessible heritage register. The register includes a list of all designated properties, including conservation districts within the municipality.”
“In addition, the register may also contain ‘Listed’ properties — those that are not designated but are believed to be of cultural heritage value or interest,” such as the Marian shrine.
The motion approved for beginning the designation process was made in relation to the City of Toronto rather than all of Ontario.
However, MPP Tom Rakocevic has also filed a separate petition with the government, seeking to designate the property under the Ontario Heritage Act to be recognized as a property of “provincial significance” in addition to the City of Toronto.
According to an email Rakocevic sent to supporters that was shared with LifeSiteNews, the government has not yet responded to the petition. It was submitted roughly two weeks ago.
LifeSiteNews contacted Perruzza and Rakocevic for further comment but did not immediately receive a response.
In addition to the petition posted on Perruzza’s website, another one was launched on August 11. To date, it has gathered 17,588 signatures, leading to nearly 19,000 citizens expressing support for preserving the Marian Shrine of Gratitude.