Bahai News -- The Ottawa Citizen - Religious communities had full calendar in 2002

Religious communities had full calendar in 2002

From the Pope's visit, to Golden Jubilee celebrations, the region's many faiths had a busy year, writes Elaine O'Connor

Elaine O'Connor
The Ottawa Citizen

CREDIT: Bruno Schlumberger, The Ottawa Citizen
Zachary Desai, 8, hugs his brother, Evan, 5, after a Muslim prayer ceremony at the Ottawa Congress Centre on Feb. 24 to mark the last day of Eid-ul-Adha. The three-day feast of sacrifice commemorates Abraham's willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son.
Sunday, December 29, 2002
Alongside the traditional holy days and seasonal holidays marked on the world's religious calendar this year were a number of banner days -- several marking visits by world religious leaders.

This year, 82-year-old Pope John Paul soldiered through World Youth Day celebrations in Toronto in June to the delight of 800,000 young Catholics from 169 countries.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, set out on a spring tour of the United States and Canada. Due to an intestinal infection that left him hospitalized, he cancelled his trip to Ottawa, but later travelled to Eastern Europe.

More than two million pilgrims made the long journey to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, last February in one of the safest pilgrimages in recent years -- 35 Muslims died in a stampede last year; hundreds were crushed by crowds in 1994 and 1998; and more than 1,000 were killed in 1990. The only pilgrims who died this year died of natural causes.

There were high points: for Catholics, seeing Opus Dei founder Msgr. Josemaria Escriva elevated to sainthood by the Pope in Rome. And low points: watching Boston Archbishop Bernard Cardinal Law resign after after an alleged coverup of sexual abuse cases in his archdiocese.

And there was religion-based conflict the world over, taking countless lives in violence between Palestinians and Israelis, Islamic militants and Hindus in Kashmir, and Christians and Muslims in Nigeria, among others.

In Ottawa, religious leaders from diverse ethnic communities did their best to knit the world's faiths together.

This year, the city continued to embrace interfaith ceremonies, initiated swiftly after the Sept. 11 attacks of 2001 in the United States, in a show of understanding and solidarity.

Over the past year, any number of events, from Sept. 11 anniversary memorials to Golden Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth, have been tinged with a spirituality that was distinctly multicultural.

Highlights of the year's faith celebrations in 2002 include:

- Dec. 6: Hanukkah, the eight-day Jewish festival of lights ends. The religious observance marks the triumph of Judah over the Syrian King Antiochus IV, who tried to force the Jews to give up their religion. The festival included a candle lighting ceremony held by Israel's ambassador to Canada, Haim Divon, at the Clarica Building and a family Hanukkah celebration with Mayor Bob Chiarelli at Ben Franklin Place on Dec. 2.

- Dec. 6: More than 5,000 people attended a Muslim celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, at the Civic Centre, led by Imam Gamal Solaiman. The month-long period of fasting during daylight hours and intense worship began Nov. 6. Followers rose before dawn to pray and eat, then fasted and prayed through daylight hours. Ramadan is when Muslims believe the Koran was sent from heaven.

- Oct. 13: The Queen and Prince Phillip worshipped at a multifaith Thanksgiving service during their Golden Jubilee tour, attracting thousands to Parliament Hill. Representatives from the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and aboriginal communities hosted a 35-minute multifaith service attended by at least 4,000 people.

- Sept. 11: An early morning remembrance ceremony at Ottawa City Hall for the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was presided over by Rabbi Reuven Bulka, and attended by Archbishop Marcel Gervais, Imam Gamal Solaiman and a score of police officers, firefighters and city employees. Also that morning, the congregation at Christ Church Cathedral paused for silent prayers in a ceremony attended by Deputy Prime Minister John Manley. The dean of the Anglican cathedral, the Very Rev. Shane Parker, read out the victim's names. Later, Archbishop Gervais held a Catholic mass and memorial service at Notre Dame Basilica for hundreds of mourners.

- Aug. 24: More than 5,000 Christian youth from across Canada and the United States gather on Parliament Hill for a six-hour prayer session and attend a Christian rock concert in an Orléans church. The event, called Canada's Revived Youth, capped World Youth Day celebrations in Toronto.

- Aug. 14: Hundreds of members of the Syriak-Orthodox faith attended mass led by Archbishop Aphrem Aboodi at Hull's St. Mary's Syriak-Orthodox Church to see Myrna Nazzour, a 38-year-old Syrian woman known around the world for hands that "weep" oil, a phenomenon believers say marks her as blessed and imbues her with the ability to heal.

- July 30: Pope John Paul leaves Toronto after a six-day visit for World Youth Day celebrations, which saw pilgrims from 150 countries descend on the city for a two-week festival of prayer.

- July 29: A massive Sunday mass delivered by the Pope drew 800,000 Catholics to a spectacle of music, dance and worship in Toronto.

- July 28: More than 500,000 young Catholics trekked several kilometres through Toronto and endured a night of rain and mud as part of a pilgrimage and all-night vigil traditionally associated with Christ's vigil before his crucifixion.

- July 22: Some 7,000 young Catholics from 36 countries celebrated mass with Archbishop Gervais at the Civic Centre before the pilgrims head off to join World Youth Day events in Toronto.

- July 18: World Youth Day events begin in Toronto.

- July 16: Lansdowne Park is turned into an international village as 4,300 pilgrims from around the globe are put up in buildings and tents on the grounds as they stopped over in Ottawa en route to World Youth Day in Toronto.

- June, 24: Mr. Chiarelli meets with about 30 religious leaders from Ottawa's faith groups to develop an educational campaign to prevent attacks on minority groups and places of worship. Faith leaders nominated candidates for a steering committee to set up regular meetings with civic officials. The mayor launched the dialogue after Sept. 11, 2001, and suggested meetings between faith groups and civic officials take place several times a year.

- May 24: Ottawa police issue a warning to the city's Jewish community about possible attacks on a local synagogue in June after its Hate Crimes Unit and the RCMP investigated "credible" information. The warning followed seven arson attacks on Jewish synagogues and funeral chapels in Canada since September 2001, including one on an Ottawa funeral chapel. Anti-Semitic slogans were also spray-painted on one of the city's six synagogues, Ottawa's Temple Israel, in April.

- April 28: Ottawa missed hosting the Dalai Lama at the Corel Centre and at Ottawa's Anglican Cathedral. The cancellation of the engagement had nothing to do with the fact that the exiled Tibetan Buddhist leader was to share the stage with Alanis Morissette, but because of an intestinal infection he developed in January.

- April 14: Ottawa Sikhs confer the Siropa, a scarf of honour, on Mr. Manley, honouring the deputy prime minister for his work on behalf of Canadians and Sikhs as they celebrate Vaisakhi, their most important religious festival of the year. In January, Mr. Manley visited Amritsar, India, where the Golden Temple, Sikhism's most holy site, is located. He passed on to the Ottawa congregation a model of the temple that was presented to him in India. Vaisakhi commemorates the day, 303 years ago, when Sikhism's 10th guru, Gobind Singh, gave the faith its modern form.

- Feb. 24: Thousands of Muslims gather at the Ottawa Congress Centre for a prayer ceremony to mark the last day of Eid-ul-Adha. The three-day feast of sacrifice commemorates Abraham's willingness to obey God and sacrifice his son. The holiday typically follows the annual hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. About 1,780 Canadians were among the two million faithful who participated in the pilgrimage to the birthplace of the prophet Mohammed this year.

- Jan. 20: A multifaith ceremony at City Hall marked Ottawa's first celebration of World Religion Day. In front of 100 people, Deputy Mayor Elisabeth Arnold declared Jan. 20 World Religion Day in Ottawa. Messages of peace were offered by Baha'i, Hindu, Sikh, Zoroastrian, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faiths, as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Unification Church, Quakers, and the Church of Scientology. World Religion Day is celebrated in 60 countries.

©Copyright 2002, The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

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