The “States Dinner” that the Knights of Columbus hold at their annual convention is always a colorful affair with representatives from the different states and provinces expressing their state pride.This year’s dinner was made even more lively with the quick-witted humor and insights of Cardinal John Foley.
Aware that the city of Québec is celebrating its 400th anniversary this year, Cardinal Foley lauded the recently held International Eucharistic Congress and used it as an opportunity to request a favor of Québec’s Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
“Your Eminence, when Father John Carroll, who was to become the first American bishop …accompanied Benjamin Franklin to Québec to ask that the Canadians join in the American Revolution, the then Bishop Briand of Québec forbade his priests to have anything to do with the visitors and he actually excommunicated John Carroll.”
“Bishop Briand had his reasons, in that the British had guaranteed the Catholics of Québec freedom of religion, a freedom which was not guaranteed at that time in the original thirteen rebellious colonies, where Catholics were often discriminated against,” explained the cardinal.
“Bishop Briand saw no reason for Canadians to join the American colonies against the British, and he was very annoyed that a Catholics priest should be among those seeking to encourage Canadians to risk their religious liberty in what he considered to be a dubious cause. So he excommunicated Father Carroll—and there is no record of which I know that such an excommunication has ever been lifted.”
“Your Eminence, Cardinal Ouellet,” said Cardinal Foley, “in the interest of better Canadian-American relations and in recognition of the fact that Americans now enjoy religious liberty… I would deeply appreciate it if you might lift the excommunication against John Carroll.”
“A government official down here said he said yes,” Cardinal Foley quipped.
Since recently being assigned to work in the Holy Land as the Grand Master of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher, the cardinal also brought in the plight of Christians in the region.
He reminded the crowd that “we cannot permit the Holy Land to become merely a Christian museum; we must keep alive a vibrant Christian community in the land made sacred by the life, death and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The American cardinal closed by saying that the Church in the Holy Land is working for the “love and respect for which Jesus called –‘Love one another as I have loved you’.”