Home » World »  Years after his death, Montreal's first cardinal remains controversial

Years after his death, Montreal's first cardinal remains controversial


  • Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger of Montreal is seen in this undated photo. He left his charge as archbishop in 1967 to become a missionary in Africa. By 1979 he helped develop clinics, hospitals, schools and orphanages in many African countries, including Cameroon. (CNS photo/L Oeuvere Leger via Presence)
  • Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger of Montreal is seen in this undated photo. He left his charge as archbishop in 1967 to become a missionary in Africa. He his pictured in Cameroon during this period with Dr. Victor Goldbloom, far right, and Jean Chretien, arms crossed, then minister in Ottawa who later became prime minister of Canada. (CNS photo/L Oeuvere Leger via Presence)

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

MONTREAL (CNS) -- Cardinal Paul-Emile Leger is still a polarizing figure for Canadians, even 25 years after his death. For some, he was a pompous and narcissist "prince" of the church; for others, a visionary pastor and missionary. Historians and contemporaries are still debating the deeds and the legacy left by Montreal's first cardinal.

Born in St. Anicet, near Valleyfield, Quebec, and ordained in 1929, this former missionary in Japan and former rector of the Canadian College in Rome was named archbishop of Montreal in 1950. Three years later, he became Montreal's first cardinal. When he came back with his red biretta, he uttered what remains his most famous declaration: "Montreal, O my city, you've adorned yourself beautifully to greet your pastor and your prince."

Archbishop Christian Lepine, Montreal's current archbishop, was just a child when Cardinal Leger headed the local church.

"People told me lots of things about him. Personally, I've come to know him by the impact he's had (on our church)", said Archbishop Lepine.

Help us expand our reach! Please share this article

Submit a Letter to the Editor