Death of the Most Reverend Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, Archbishop Emeritus of Ottawa

Share Button

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops website

Monday, January 07 2013


(CCCB – Ottawa)… The Most Reverend Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, Archbishop Emeritus of Ottawa, Ontario, died on Saturday, January 5, 2013, in Ottawa, at the age of 97, after  almost 49 years as a Bishop.

Archbishop Plourde was born on January 12, 1915, in Saint-François-de-Madawaska, New Brunswick. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Edmundston on May 7, 1944; appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Alexandria-Cornwall, Ontario, by Pope Paul VI on July 30, 1964; ordained Bishop on August 26, 1964, in Edmundston; appointed Apostolic Administrator of Alexandria-Cornwall on October 15, 1966, and appointed Archbishop of Ottawa on January 12, 1967. For reasons of health because of heart problems, his resignation as Archbishop of Ottawa was accepted by the Holy Father in September 1989, about six months before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75 for Bishops.

Following his ordination as Bishop in 1964, the Most Reverend Plourde was a member of the Second Vatican Council. Shortly after the Council, he had a pivotal role in the restructuring of what was then the Canadian Catholic Conference (after 1977 renamed the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops). In 1966, he was elected to the Conference’s newly constituted Board, on which he served until 1971 (later renamed the Administrative Board, and eventually the Permanent Council). In 1967, he was elected to an ad hoc committee which brought forward recommendations on the nature and role of the Conference in the light of Vatican II. From 1969 to 1971, he was President of the Conference. Later, from 1979 to 1983, he served on its then Commission for Non-believers.

From 1966 to 1967, Archbishop Plourde chaired a committee of the Conference which oversaw the establishment of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace. During October 1969, while Vice President of the Conference, he was in Rome as the Canadian episcopal consultant and spokesperson for the media covering the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on “Cooperation between the Holy See and the Episcopal Conferences”.

His funeral Mass will be on Friday, January 11, at 11:00 a.m. at Notre-Dame Cathedral-Basilica, Ottawa.

Last Updated on Monday, January 07 2013


Former Ottawa Roman Catholic archbishop dies at 97

The Ottawa Citizen

07 January 2013

Former Ottawa Roman Catholic archbishop dies at 97

Archbishop Joseph-Aurele Plourde

OTTAWA — Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, longtime Roman Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa, has died. He was 97.

Plourde was the seventh archbishop of Ottawa, serving from 1967 until 1989.

Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast broadcast the news of his death via Twitter Saturday and in a blog post on Sunday.

“Commended to our prayers: the soul of Mgr Joseph-Aurele Plourde, emeritus archbishop of Ottawa, who passed away today a week short of 98 yrs,” Prendergast tweeted.

On his blog, the bishop wrote, “May the Lord, whose Church the Archbishop served faithfully, grant him the reward of his labours.”

Plourde was born in New Brunswick in 1915 and was ordained a priest in 1944. Twenty years later, he was ordained a bishop and soon after appointed to the archbishop’s post in Ottawa.

He was the official host to Pope John Paul II during the pontiff’s visit in 1984.

He also spent a day with Mother Teresa, who came to Ottawa in 1988 to attend an anti-abortion rally on Parliament Hill.

Among his major achievements, Plourde told the Citizen upon his retirement in 1989 that he was particularly proud of the annual charity dinners started by the diocese, which generally result in a contribution of about $100,000 a year to the poor.

He played a key role in setting up several consultative bodies, which he said have become “a model of co-responsibility and participation” in both languages. He introduced a senate of priests to improve communication with the clergy in the diocese and a committee to study the role of women.

As a young man, he envisioned a life for himself as a lawyer and politician. He was registered in law school at Laval University, but decided on the first day of classes to leave and enrolled at a Halifax seminary.

But he still approached the world as a man who wanted to change it.

He was not afraid to criticize the Third Synod of Bishops in Rome in 1971, wondering out loud whether they would remain relevant if they didn’t become more open to input.

Poverty was a major issue for him. Shortly after becoming archbishop, he said that poverty was “the number one problem in the modern world.”

He fought against that poverty both in Ottawa and beyond. Under his watch, the diocese gave a property to the Shepherds of Good Hope on Murray Street for a soup kitchen and shelter.

Plourde’s compassion also led to one of his most surprising moves, the adoption of a Cambodian orphan in 1979. The then-17-year-old Tea Huot was the only survivor from his family of five from under the Khmer Rouge and Plourde brought him to Ottawa from a refugee camp in Thailand where he had fled. For 10 years, he lived in the residence of the archbishop, whom he called “Papa,” before moving out on his own.

During his 23 years as head of the Ottawa diocese — a bilingual district considered the most demanding in Canada — Plourde was often at the centre of controversy.

Considered a progressive, he incurred the wrath of conservative Catholics when he banished four traditionalist priests from St. Brigid’s church in Lowertown after they had converted the parish to old-style Oratorian mass in 1989.

He was criticized by parents of children who had been sexually assaulted by Nepean priest Dale Crampton, who was convicted in 1987. They insisted Plourde knew about the incidents, but didn’t act. Plourde denied he knew.

He took some heat for allowing some “general absolution” services, without the requirement of confession, as a way of bringing people back to the church.

He was practical, defending the selling of souvenirs to help pay for the pope’s visit in 1984. On the flip side, he objected to the idea of raising church revenue through bingo.

“I don’t miss the criticism of the people who are never satisfied,” Plourde once told the Citizen. “I don’t miss the administration part of the job at all.”

What the officer of the Order of Canada liked most, he said, was to spend time with the faithful.

“I want to spend 75 per cent of my time with the people in my parishes,” he said in 1973, “not in an office being a bureaucrat.”

A smooth, sociable man who was famous for networking on the diplomatic party circuit, Plourde was forced to retire sooner than expected because of a heart condition. He found the transition a difficult adjustment.

“At first I was wondering why I was on Earth,” he told the Citizen in 1991. “I missed being overloaded with work.”

Funeral details have not been announced.


Archbishop Emeritus of Ottawa, Joseph-Aurele Plourde dies at 97

The Ottawa Sun

By ,Ottawa Sun

First posted: | Updated:

Joseph-Aurele Plourde

Ottawa has lost one of its long-serving Archbishops.

Canadian Archbishop Emeritus of Ottawa, Joseph-Aurele Plourde died Saturday, the current Archbishop, Terry Prendergast, announced on his blog.

Plourde had served as eighth Bishop and seventh Archbishop in Ottawa’s Catholic church.

He was 97, a week shy of his next birthday.

Born in New Brunswick in 1915, Plourde was ordained as a priest in 1944 in Edmunston. He then served as auxiliary Bishop in Alexandria, Ont., where he also served the congregation of the city’s Sacre Coeur Church. He briefly filled in for then-Bishop Rosario Brodeur when the latter’s health began to fail.

He was appointed as Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Ottawa in 1967 and the same year became vice-president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. He would become president of the group in 1969 and remained in the position for two more years.

Plourde was a member of the Gang of Five , which has been described as an “influential group” of Bishops, all of them close friends.

Plourde served the church in Ottawa for more than 20 years before retiring in 1989. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada the same year.

“May the Lord, whose Church the Archbishop served faithfully, grant him the reward of his labours,” Prendergast wrote on his blog.

Funeral plans have not yet been announced.


Archive: The man who kept Trudeau’s biggest secret

The Ottawa Citizen

06 January 2012

By Christopher Guly, Ottawa Citizen January 6, 2013

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the Oct. 1, 2000 print edition of the Ottawa Citizen.

Not many people knew about Pierre Trudeau’s plans to marry Margaret Sinclair in 1971.

Archbishop Joseph-Aurele Plourde was among the select group who did.

About two weeks before the Vancouver wedding, Mr. Trudeau invited Archbishop Plourde, who was then head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa, to the prime minister’s official residence at 24 Sussex Drive for lunch. “I thought there would be some other people,” recalled the 85-year-old retired archbishop yesterday. “I got there and there was nobody else.”

Archbishop Plourde assumed the prime minister, a devout Catholic, had summoned him to discuss affairs of the Church. At the time, the archbishop was president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“During the meal, he didn’t speak about anything special and I was wondering why he had invited me,” he said. “Afterward, when we had coffee in the living room, he said, `You must wonder why I invited you.’ And I said, `Yes.’ He said, `I’m getting married and nobody else knows anything about it.’ He told me he didn’t tell most of his ministers.”

Mr. Trudeau wanted the prelate to obtain his baptismal and confirmation certificates from St-Viateur Church in Montreal, a parish to which he had belonged all his life. Archbishop Plourde knew the pastor there. But according to him, Mr. Trudeau didn’t trust the priest’s “discretion.” To which Archbishop Plourde replied, “Don’t worry, there will be no problem.”

“So I called this priest and I said, `Listen here, I have something to ask you and I want you to keep this as a perfect secret — a secret of confession. I will ask you something, don’t ask any questions. Send me his baptism and confirmation certificates.’ And he did.”

The Trudeau wedding was so cloaked in secrecy that the priest who presided over the Catholic ceremony in North Vancouver didn’t even know in advance the identity of the groom, according to Archbishop Plourde, who was head of the Ottawa archdiocese from 1967 to 1989.

Initially, Ms. Sinclair, then 22, had set a December 1970 date for the wedding, which had to be postponed because of the FLQ crisis in Quebec when her future husband, then 51, invoked the War Measures Act.

As Archbishop Plourde explained yesterday, “They got married and the media didn’t know anything about it, because if they did, I probably would have been blamed.”

Canada’s most famous wedding went off without a hitch at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in North Vancouver at about 6 p.m. on March 4, 1971.

Archbishop Plourde did not attend the ceremony, which was conducted by Rev. John Swinkels — a now 72-year-old retired priest who initially was told the groom was Pierre Mercier, a Montreal businessman. Mr. Trudeau’s identity was only revealed to Father Swinkels three hours before the service, which was attended by about 15 people.

Eventually, Archbishop Plourde met Margaret and was present when the couple’s firstborn son, Justin, who was born on Christmas Day 1971, was baptized at Ottawa’s Notre-Dame Basilica Cathedral on Jan. 17, 1972.

The archbishop also maintained contact with the former prime minister, accompanying Mr. Trudeau to the 1978 installation of pope John Paul I in Vatican City.

During Archbishop Plourde’s time as head of the Ottawa archdiocese, Mr. Trudeau was also a guest at dinners the prelate hosted for Canada’s Catholic archbishops attending their annual meeting in Ottawa.


4 Responses to Death of the Most Reverend Joseph-Aurèle Plourde, Archbishop Emeritus of Ottawa

  1. Sylvia says:

    “He was criticized by parents of children who had been sexually assaulted by Nepean priest Dale Crampton, who was convicted in 1987. They insisted Plourde knew about the incidents, but didn’t act. Plourde denied he knew.”

    Yes, Plourde denied he knew. There were others, but Plourde has gone to his grave and to meet his Maker without, to my knowledge, ever being held accountable on this earth for any of the clerical sexual predators who were nestled in the Archdiocese of Ottawa.

    It is, I must admit, with the very greatest of difficulty that I will pray for the repose of his soul.

  2. PJ says:

    There’s NOTHING “most reverend” about that collar.

  3. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    It surely is a sad time in our world when one so capable of doing so much good passes, and leaves a trail of ruined souls in his path.
    So much good was done by him, but I must ask for what reason? Perhaps for personal glory, or was it actually sincere?
    The legacy of deny, deny, deny, deny, deny, deny leaves a very large and black cloud hanging in the heavens. Mike.

  4. Nora Plourde says:

    Good Evening: My late husband was a Plourde born in the Townships in 1921(in a large family). Our family met Archbishop in Ottawa in the 70’s when Father Whelan became a priest. Now we would like to know if all the Plourdes stemmed from the same family tree…meaning the main family coming from France in the 1800’s or? An answer would be dearly appreciates. Thank you very much. Nora MacDonald Plourde.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *