Religious leaders give blessing to national multi-faith memorial

By on December 4, 2007

Leaders of 30 faith groups form a circle around a 14-tonne rock that lies in the centre of the National Memorial Centre in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, on Nov. 28. The representatives deposited their faiths’ funeral rites on a table nearby. Among the leaders present were, second from right, Bishop Donald Theriault, the military ordinary for Roman Catholics, and to his right, Bishop Peter Coffin, the recently-retired bishop of the diocese of Ottawa, who is now a full-time Anglican bishop ordinary to the Armed Forces.

Canada’s multi-faith leaders gathered in Ottawa Nov. 28 to bless the newly-built Beechwood National Memorial Centre, designed to serve the “memorial and commemorative needs” of the country’s diverse faith communities.

The 14,000-square-foot, nine-sided facility is believed to be the first of its kind in the world, and was built after extensive consultations with major faith groups.

“This blessing ceremony reminds us of the spiritual purpose of this new multi-faith Memorial Centre,” said Grete Hale, chair of the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation. “In the spirit of unity in diversity, we’ve created an inclusive Sacred Space where Canadians of all faiths can honour their loved ones.”

The Sacred Space features a vaulted ceiling, a large sky-lit dome, and in the middle, a large 14-tonne rock. The rock “reminds us that in the midst of our mourning, there is another reality that is eternal,” said Rev. Gerry Peddle, an Anglican priest and former Chaplain General of the Canadian Forces.

At the blessing, spiritual leaders from 30 faith groups, including the Anglican Church of Canada, deposited their holy funeral rites in the Sacred Space to symbolize their support for the new facility, which will have its official opening in 2008.

The centre also includes a reception area and a Hall of Colours for military ceremonies.

The Beechwood Cemetery is home to the National Military Cemetery; it has also been the final resting place for many prominent Canadians, including former prime minister Robert Borden, and Tommy Douglas, the former premier of Saskatchewan and founding leader of the New Democratic Party.

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