OTD: Pope John Paul II begins two-day visit to Québec

On today’s date in 1984, Pope John Paul II arrived in Montréal, Qué., for a two-day visit that included stops at Saint Joseph’s Oratory, Notre-Dame’s Basilica, Olympic Stadium and Jarry Park, where the pope led an open-air mass in front of thousands of people.

The pope arrived by train at Montréal on the evening of Sept. 10, 1984, according to the Catholic Church of Montréal. Nearly two hours behind schedule, the pope took part in an official welcoming ceremony in the cathedral before making his way to the sacristy.

“There, far from journalists and their cameras, he met in private with eleven representatives of the Canadian Jewish Congress. It was only after this meeting that the Pontiff retired to the residence of the Archbishop’s Palace where he stayed during his visit in Montréal,” reads the church website.

A second meeting, this “behind closed doors,” took place in the Archdiocese the next day, on Sept. 11.

“Following the Papal Mass at Jarry Park, more than twenty bishops met over lunch with the Pope. The Archbishops and Auxiliary Bishops of the dioceses of the ecclesiastical province of Montréal and of the dioceses of Western Quebec were joined by the Archbishops of Rennes and Ouagadougou and the Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Angelo Palmas. At the end of this meeting, the Pope left for Notre-Dame’s Basilica to attend a gathering with children. Immediately after, he took the direction of the Olympic Stadium for a meeting with the youth.”

The next morning, on Sept. 12, the pope and his entourage left early for the Dorval Airport to continue their 12-day journey across Canada.

Canada Post also issued a 64-cent stamp as part of its commemoration of the former pope’s first visit to Canada.


In August 1984, Canada Post issued a set of two stamps to mark the papal visit that would take place the following month.

Upon arrival, John Paul II became the first pope to step foot in Canada, which he visited from Sept. 9-20.

The stamps were printed by Ashton-Potter on Harrison and Sons paper with general tagging along two opposite edges. Designed by Louis-Andre Rivard, each stamp features the papal coat of arms laid on top of a map. The first commemorative stamp had a face value of 32 cents (Scott #1030), and the second stamp had a face value of 64 cents (SC #1031).

The stamps’ concept centres on the pope’s personal coat of arms—a blue shield quartered by a gold cross with the letter “M” in the lower right-hand corner and surmounted by the ancient symbols of the papacy, the triple crown and the keys of St. Peter. The background features a stylized map of Canada with indications of the stops in the pope’s coast-to-coast journey in September 1984.


Karol Wojtyla was the first non-Italian pope since 1523 and the first Polish Cardinal to be elevated to the office. He was born in the market town of Wadowice, 50 kilometres from Krakow, Poland, on May 18, 1920. His father, a former soldier, brought him up after his mother; his brother Edmund died.

Wojtyla went to the state school, where he excelled as a brilliant pupil, athlete, poet and actor. He entered university in 1938, but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War.


Wojtyla helped to establish a network of underground classes and tutorials as well as “Studio 39,” an underground theatre.

During the war, his experience cutting stones while working in a quarry influenced him as a man as well as a writer. Although he had been chairman of the Catholic Youth Organization, it was not until after his father’s death that he decided to become a priest.

Wojtyla was ordained in November 1946 and quickly rose through the clergy, distinguishing himself as a theologian, linguist, poet, and philosopher. He set down his beliefs in a number of publications and made his mark at the Vatican during the synods he attended from 1967-77.

On Oct. 16, 1978, the College of Cardinals voted him Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Until his death in 2005, the pope travelled the world to spread his message of peace.

More recently, in 2002, Canada Post issued a 48-cent multi-coloured stamp (SC #1957) to commemorate World Youth Day 2002. Printed by Ashton-Potter on JAC paper using six-colour lithography, the stamps were die cut with general tagging along each side. An official first-day cover was cancelled in Toronto.

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