and religious freedom
The Mount Royal Cross is to Montreal what the crucifix was to the National Assembly
By Flavenne de Gué-Riche
Since the adoption of Bill 21 on the secularism of the State by the National Assembly of Quebec, with the massive support of a population that has reached spiritual maturity free of religious constraints, the symbol of the cross had to give way to the visual neutrality of religions in order to see them all express themselves freely in the intimacy of places of worship, the only places suitable for gatherings of people of faith.
The question of faith and its accessories is sensitive to the point of blinding opponents, such as the Quebec Liberal and Québec solidaire parties, who claim that Bill 21 violates religious freedom. If religion is a personal and private concept, it must be noted that the feeling of religious oppression resides in the claim that believers can impose their faith in the public domain and thus proselytize without regard for law-abiding citizens.
… society must take the next step by resolving, after the crucifix in Parliament, the fate of the monumental Mount Royal cross, which has been in plain view since its inauguration in 1924.
The debate around the crucifix followed that of the municipal councils, who were asked to abolish prayer before the opening of sessions. Habits are not easily broken, however, and the government had to take responsibility and set an example regarding the crucifix at the National Assembly, a symbol of the power that the Roman Catholic Church in Quebec had in the past. Everyone agreed on the historical and heritage aspect of this liturgical object, which could not simply be thrown away. The compromise was to move the religious symbol and integrate it into the various objects that make up the country’s rich museum collections.
In the logic of the current transitional phenomenon between religion and secularism, society must take the next step by resolving, after the crucifix in Parliament, the fate of the monumental Mount Royal cross, which has been in plain view since its inauguration in 1924. Although it has become a symbol of the city, like the Olympic Stadium and St. Joseph’s Oratory, it is nonetheless a challenge at the expense of other religions, which could be imagined at a time when no one would have dared, or even thought, to challenge its supremacy in Quebec. But times, like laws, are changing, and it must now be dethroned from its pedestal like its little parliamentary cousin.
‘Although it has become a symbol of the city, like the Olympic Stadium and St. Joseph’s Oratory, it is nonetheless a challenge at the expense of other religions…’
The iconoclastic idea evoked here immediately provokes loud cries in unison from conservative voices of all faiths that are ready to unite so that nothing moves. Alas for them, the evolution of secularism in Quebec, if not in Canada, of a healthy and democratic society calls for compromises capable of satisfying the majority. What compromise would allow citizens and visitors to admire the mountain, located right in the centre of our city, without any reminder of a past where religion was omnipresent and omnipotent, while allowing believers to rediscover their beloved Christian symbol as easily as visitors to the National Assembly?
There are two alternatives, either by depriving the cross of its base so as not to exceed the treetops, or by laying it down on the spot for a well-deserved rest. These options could be in the centre of a flowered garden, itself surrounded by public benches where admirers and pilgrims would come to pray, exchange, meditate or contemplate it in all intimacy as they would have thought possible.
The challenge is great and represents the ultimate symbol to which Law 21 must logically address itself. Its credibility and respect are at stake.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of WestmountMag.ca or its publishers.
Read also: other articles by Flavenne de Gué-Riche