Montreal diocesan campaign posters teach sacred meaning of religious swear words

Montreal diocesan campaign posters teach sacred meaning of religious swear words


French-language posters for the Archdiocese of Montreal’s annual fundraising campaign have generated more press attention than usual.

This year’s posters highlight the sacred meaning of some religious words that have evolved into swear words in Quebec French over the last 50 years.

There are four posters that feature the definitions of religious words, including “ciboire” (ciborium), “hostie” (host), and “tabernacle” (tabernacle).

For example, one French poster, when translated into English, reads: "tabernacle: small cupboard locked by key on the altar containing the ciborium."

These religious swear words are a uniquely French-Canadian phenomenon, said Monique Carmel, a linguist and professional translator. She told the Canadian Press that these words “were used as blasphemy and a form of rebellion when the Church held a great amount of power in Quebec society.”

The posters feature red text on a black backdrop. Like every year, they were put up for free around the city—on large billboards, in bus shelters, in the subway, and in front of Mary Queen of the World Cathedral. As usual, French newspapers also ran the archdiocese’s campaign ads for free. The campaign began May 10 and will run until June. The campaign goal is $2 million; last year they raised $1.7 million.

Fr. Jean Boyer told the CP that church officials were hesitant when the public relations firm, BOS, suggested the campaign for the annual fundraising drive. But the idea presented a great opportunity to catch people’s attention and to remind people of some sacred definitions, he said.

The archdiocese’s communications co-ordinator, Lucie Martineau, explained in the diocesan publication Vivre en Eglise that the campaign offers the local church the opportunity to educate the masses about the faith within the current culture.

Since this particular problem does not exist among English-speaking Catholics, for the first time the archdiocese came up with another theme in English: “Be a saint.” To date, the English theme has not generated any press.