Catholic Church of Montreal > Publications > Info Archives > JANUARY 2015 - Sixty years ago our cathedral adopted a new name

JANUARY 2015 - Sixty years ago our cathedral adopted a new name


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Every now and then, we receive a message from someone looking for Montreal's Saint James Cathedral where parents or grandparents were married. These individuals are surprised to learn that this Cathedral still exists and has now been known for sixty years as Mary Queen of the World. The history of this surprising change of name begins with the publication of the encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam, three months before the adoption of the new title.

To mark the hundredth anniversary of the promulgation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Pius XII had wanted 1954 to be a Marian year. Throughout this year, many initiatives encouraged around the world the devotion to the Blessed Virgin. It is with great enthusiasm that Montreal's Catholics lived these moments. One of the highlights of this first Marian year was the proclamation of the encyclical Ad Caeli Reginam. On 11 October 1954, Pope Pius XII proclaimed in this text the queenship of Mary. For the first time, he uses the expression "Queen of the world" to describe the Mother of Christ.

A few days after the publication of the encyclical, the Archbishop of Montreal, Cardinal Léger, flew to Rome on a visit ad limina. This journey, which would also lead him to Lourdes and Paris, would last more than two months. On 5 November 1954, probably enthusiastic at the reading of the encyclical of the Holy Father, he wrote from Rome to the Sacred Congregation of Rites requesting that Mary Queen of the World be declared patron of the Cathedral. This demand appears to be a personal initiative of the Cardinal since there is no trace of any discussion on this issue in the records of the Cathedral chapter. In a decree dated 12 November 1954, and at the request of Cardinal Léger, the Sacred Congregation of Rites named Mary Queen of the World patron saint of the cathedral. This Decree is signed by the prefect of the congregation, Cardinal Gaetano Cicognani and Secretary Archbishop Marinci. However, as it is not customary to remove a church's patron saint, both Saint Mary and Saint James were declared patrons. This explains why the complete name of the cathedral remains to this day Mary Queen of the World and Saint James the Greater.

On 21 December 1954, after concluding the Marian year in Lourdes as Papal legate, Cardinal Léger returned triumphantly to Montreal. The day after his arrival, during a press conference held at the episcopal palace, the Cardinal surprised journalists by announcing that the Cathedral would now be known under the new name of Mary Queen of the World. It seems that this announcement also took by surprise the editors of the Diocesan newspaper who, a few days before the Christmas holiday, did not have the opportunity to announce this important change in the pages of La Semaine Religieuse. That year, the Archbishop celebrated Christmas at St Joseph's Oratory and the New Year at Notre-Dame. There was therefore no official event held in the Cathedral at the end of 1954. This explains why it was not until January 1955 that journalists would refer to the Cathedral of Montreal by its new name. This was sixty years ago.

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