Paul-Émile Léger

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Paul-Émile Léger
Cardinal, Archbishop emeritus of Montreal
See Montreal (Emeritus)
Installed March 25, 1950 – December 12, 1967
Predecessor Joseph Charbonneau
Successor Paul Grégoire
Other posts Previously Rector of Pontifical Canadian College
Created Cardinal January 12, 1953
Personal details
Born April 26, 1904
Valleyfield, Canada
Died 13 November 1991(1991-11-13) (aged 87)
Montreal, Canada
Motto Ipsa duce non fatigaris
(With her (the Blessed Virgin Mary) leading, you shall not tire)
Styles of
Paul-Émile Léger
Coat of arms of Paul-Émile Léger.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Montreal (emeritus)

Paul-Émile Léger CC GOQ GCM PSS (April 26, 1904 – November 13, 1991) was a Canadian Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He served as Archbishop of Montreal from 1950 to 1967, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1953 by Pope Pius XII.


Early life and ordination[edit]

Paul-Émile Léger was born in Valleyfield, Quebec, to Ernest and Alda (née Beauvais) Léger; his younger brother, Jules Léger, was Governor General of Canada from 1974-80. From 1916-25, he attended the Seminary of Sainte-Thérèse, but was forced to interrupt his studies for a period of four years due to illness. Léger entered the Jesuit novitiate at Sault-au-Récollet, but was considered too emotional to continue in that order.

Professor and theologian[edit]

After attending the Seminary of Montreal (from where he obtained a licentiate in theology in 1929), he was ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1929. Léger then joined the Society of Saint-Sulpice, entering its novitiate in Issy-les-Moulineaux. He went on to study at the Catholic Institute of Paris, and received his doctorate in canon law in 1931.

He taught theology at Saint-Sulpice Seminary in Paris for a year, and served as assistant Master of Novices from 1932 to 1933, when he was sent to Japan to create a seminary in Fukuoka for the formation of indigenous priests. .

Pastoral work[edit]

Léger did pastoral work in Omuta and taught philosophy at its seminary until 1939. Returning to Canada during World War II, he was Professor of Sociology in Montreal and Professor of Apologetics at the Pius XI Institute from 1939 to 1940

In 1940 he was named Vicar General of Valleyfield, and was raised to the rank of Monsignor on September 29, 1942. Léger had to temporarily leave the Society of Saint-Sulpice upon assuming his diocesan duties, but later entered the Society again in 1947, when he also became rector of the Pontifical Canadian College in Rome.

Cardinal Léger


On March 25, 1950, he was named Archbishop of Montreal by Pope Pius XII.[1] Léger received his episcopal consecration on the following April 26 from Cardinal Adeodato Giovanni Piazza, OCD, with Archbishop Maurice Roy and Bishop Jean-Julien Weber, PSS, serving as co-consecrators.


He was created Cardinal Priest of S. Maria degli Angeli by Pius XII in the consistory of January 12, 1953, and was one of the electors in the 1958 papal conclave, which selected Pope John XXIII; also in the 1963 conclave, which selected Pope Paul Vi. During his tenure in Montreal, he also prohibited his clergy from retaining membership in Rotary clubs.[2]

He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II respectively.

Later career[edit]

On November 9, 1967, Léger surprised his parishioners when he announced his decision to resign as both a Roman Catholic Cardinal and as Archbishop of Montreal in order to perform missionary work in Africa among lepers and handicapped children. [3] [4]. Cardinal Leger was bid farewell on December 12 by 1,000 well-wishers as he departed Montreal for a flight to Dakar in Senegal. [5] [6] Paul Gregoire would be named as the new Archbishop of Montreal on April 23, 1968. [7] In 1968, Leger was made a Companion of the Order of Canada. In 1979, he was the recipient of the first Pearson Medal of Peace for his humanitarian work, and in 1985, he was made a Grand Officer of the National Order of Quebec.

Retirement and death[edit]

From May 2, 1989 until his death, he was the Cardinal Protopriest, or the longest-serving member of the order of Cardinal Priests. Léger died from pneumonia at the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, at age 87. His funeral Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Jean-Claude Turcotte. He was the last surviving cardinal elevated by Pope Pius XII.


Role during the Council[edit]

The Cardinal was a leading liberal force at the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). With the assistance of Cardinals Antonio Caggiano and Norman Gilroy, he delivered one of the closing messages of the Council on December 8, 1965.[8]

Religious liberty[edit]

He supported religious liberty at the Council.[9]

Birth control[edit]

He was one of the Council Fathers who, in a speech delivered on 29 October 1964 concerning the document later promulgated as the Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, raised the question of a possible change in the Church's teaching on birth control. In the same speech, he urged that the document place more emphasis on conjugal love as an end or purpose of marriage.[10]


He believed that the Council Fathers needed to issue a stronger declaration against antisemitism as a "necessary act of a renewed Church".[11]


A cardinal elector in the 1963 papal conclave, Léger spoke at a session of the Faith and Order Commission in September 1963.[12]




  1. ^ TIME Magazine. Change of Command April 3, 1950
  2. ^ TIME Magazine. Worldly Rotary January 22, 1951
  3. ^ "'Simple Priesthood' Ahead for Leger", Montreal Gazette, November 10, 1967, p1
  4. ^ "Cardinal Gives up See to Aid Lepers", New York Times, November 10, 1967, p1
  5. ^ "Tearful Prelate Bids Au Revoir", Montreal Gazette, December 12, 1967, p3
  6. ^ TIME Magazine. The Cardinal and the Lepers May 16, 1969
  7. ^ "Name New RC Archbishop of Montreal", Ottawa Journal, April 23, 1968.
  8. ^ Christus Rex. To Men of Though and Science
  9. ^ A Cardinal for a Leper Colony November 17, 1967
  10. ^ History of Vatican II, Giuseppe Alberigo (ed.), vol. IV, pp.309f. Cf. TIME Magazine. No More Galileos November 6, 1964
  11. ^ TIME Magazine. A Test of Good Will October 9, 1964
  12. ^ TIME Magazine. Chats Under a Hot Tin Roof August 2, 1963
  13. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 29 January 2017. 
  14. ^ "Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger". Retrieved 2017-08-17. 
  15. ^ TIME Magazine. 24 Hats December 8, 1952
  16. ^ TIME Magazine. The Church Said No February 7, 1955
  17. ^ Famous Hams and ex-Hams, Ron's World, accessed 22 October 2010

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by
Joseph Charbonneau
Archbishop of Montreal
Succeeded by
Paul Grégoire