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Pope John Paul II watches as the World Youth Day cross is carried up the stage during a welcoming ceremony as part of the World Youth day Thursday, July 25, 2002 in Toronto. The frail, 82-year-old pope spoke to tens of thousands of flag-waving young people gathered at a lakeside fairgrounds at the opening of the church's 17th World Youth Day festivities. (AP Photo/Arturo Mari, HO, Vatican)
INDEPTH: CATHOLICISM IN CANADA
Catholicism in Canada
CBC News Online | Updated May 13, 2005

The Roman Catholic Church began sending missions to New France during the 1600s. At the time, the objective was to provide education to settlers and to bring Christianity to native people. With direction and support from the Vatican, Jesuits and nuns established a solid presence throughout the country, administering many of Canada's early schools, hospitals and orphanages.


The official status of the Catholic Church in Canada changed in 1905 from being a "mission" church that received funding for its operation from Europe, to being "independent" and having to finance itself. Since then, Canadian Catholicism has grown, and the Vatican has named 10 Canadian saints, beatified 13 Canadians and received three personal visits from the Pope. In October 2003, the Vatican will appoint the 15th Canadian cardinal since Confederation.

The last papal visit to Canada was in 2002, when John Paul attended World Youth Day in Toronto. Almost 750,000 people from around the world attended mass in Downsview Park at the climax of the occasion. The event, eagerly anticipated by Canadian pilgrims, drew attention to the strength of the Catholic presence in Canada.

Based on census data from 2001, there are 13 million Catholic Canadians, making it the country's most popular religion.




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