Montreal cardinal urges end to Catholic cemetery strike

.- Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal has urged both sides in the two-month-old strike at Canada's largest Catholic cemetery to come to a speedy resolution.

Cardinal Turcotte told a press conference yesterday that he has asked the independent corporation that runs the Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery on Montreal’s Mount Royal to end its lockout, and asked the union to suspend its strike. The archbishop of Montreal wants both sides to negotiate a settlement.

About 60 bodies a week have been placed in refrigerated units since the cemetery's 129 unionized employees were locked out May 16. A class-action lawsuit on behalf of the families of 600 unburied dead has been filed, reported The Gazette.

"We can't keep dead people in Frigidaires," the cardinal reportedly said. "It’s a real mix-up.”

The cardinal said he empathized with the families in mourning. “The families who want to see their dead buried are the real victims in all of this,” he was quoted as saying.

"I am asking everyone to go back to work on the short term, and I am counting on a resolution based on the good faith of both sides,” he told a press conference, held at the chancery office yesterday. “Let's settle the immediate problem of burying the dead on the short run, and the labor problems in the long run."

Diocesan officials were critical of the media for failing to report the cardinal's two previous attempts to use his moral authority to resolve the dispute.

"The public seems to have the impression that a bishop can push a button and fix things," the cardinal said. "I have no legal or political authority to intervene," he explained. "I have no right to impose anything on anyone. My profound conviction is that the only way we will be able to resolve this is through negotiation."

The Archdiocese of Montreal does not own the cemetery and does not fall under the direct or legal jurisdiction of the archbishop.

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