Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 16, 2004
Bishops mourn Claude Ryan's death
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
The death of former Quebec Liberal leader Claude Ryan is not only a loss for Canada but also for the Church, says the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In a statement offering condolences to the family and all Canadians, Archbishop Brendan O'Brien called Ryan a statesman, a man of faith and a man of the Church who showed great leadership through his involvement in Catholic Action - an organization for lay Catholics - from 1945 to 1962.
Ryan was an influential publisher, writer and editor of the Montreal newspaper, Le Devoir, in the 1960s and 1970s.
He was also a deeply religious man who believed that God led him into political life. As Quebec Liberal leader from 1978 to 1982, Ryan successfully led the federalist fight in the sovereignty referendum in Quebec in 1980. He resigned as Liberal leader in 1982 but continued as a cabinet minister for nearly a decade starting in 1985. He retired in 1994.
Ryan died of stomach cancer in a Montreal hospital Feb.8 at the age of 79.
Gov. Gen. Adrienne Clarkson said that with the passing of Ryan, "Canada has lost one of its most respected free thinkers."
She added, "His intellectual influence, felt not only among a generation of politicians but in every segment of Quebec society, enriched our understanding of the many issues facing our country."
Clarkson said Ryan made "a remarkable contribution to the advancement of Quebec and Canadian society - a contribution that will be forever etched in our collective memory."
Prime Minister Paul Martin expressed sadness at the death of Ryan, stating that, "Over the course of his illustrious career, Claude Ryan embodied the core values that define our country today: respect for opinions, a commitment toward those less fortunate, and the search for compromise."
The PM also said Ryan was a "committed Canadian with an unshakable faith in his country" and that he was always at the centre of the great debates on Quebec's evolution within confederation.
Quebec Premier Jean Charest said Ryan's contribution to public life and to the progress of Quebec society is "inestimable." At a press conference announcing that a state funeral would be held, Charest said Ryan committed his life to Quebec, through Catholic Action, through Le Devoir and through his leadership of the Liberal party.
"As a minister and after, his life was dedicated totally to Quebec and Quebecers," said the premier. "In that respect we owe him a deep debt of gratitude. He'll be remembered forever."
The funeral for Ryan is to be held Feb. 13 at the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal, the same church where the funerals of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, former Premier Rene Levesque were held.
Ryan was predeceased by wife, Madeleine Guay in 1986 and is survived by their five children.