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June 29, 2015

As Canada celebrates its 148th birthday as a nation, we rejoice in the respect and harmony that mark our multicultural country. This attitude of respect for those of diverse backgrounds and commitments is the quality which provides the foundation for a country marked by peace, freedom and prosperity. Without a respectful multiculturalism, we would have none of those things.

During his 1984 visit to Winnipeg, St. John Paul II lauded Canada's "atmosphere of respect for cultural diversity." The pope challenged Canadians to deepen that respect into something even more profound – mutual love rooted in faith.

"The Gospel has become and always continues to become the source of spiritual culture for men and women of different nations, tongues and races," he said in that Winnipeg homily. If culture were to become detached from the Gospel commandment of love, from faith in a God whose very nature is love, multiculturalism would become impossible.

The danger Canadian society faces today is just that – a decline in the faith which forms culture and that makes harmonious co-existence a reality. The ideal of a brotherhood and sisterhood of humanity is a fine thing, but it needs a firm, transcendent foundation so that it will not dissolve at the first sign of cultural tension.

If, at times in the past, faith meant a narrowing of perspective – a self-satisfied assurance that my religion has the corner on truth -

today it must mean an embrace of all that is good in other faiths and cultures. It must also be seen in an unshakeable respect for the other person, no matter how different his or her beliefs or lifestyle.

Pluralism, Pope John Paul said, is compatible with the unity of society. At the same time, there must be a "moral unity of society."

Today, more than ever, that moral unity is difficult to win. The difficulty of forging an evolving, but effective, moral unity founded in love has led many to abandon the quest and settle for an anything-goes relativism. But no pluralistic society can long exist in harmony if its basis is relativism. The centre will not hold; it will dissolve into factions whose modus operandi will be the quest for power for one's own group.

The key to building a morally unified

society is an unselfish, generous spirit that is widespread in all corners of the population. Multiculturalism ought to stretch Canada and Canadians into something better. In the past it has. It can do that in the future too, if we but nurture the belief that the Ultimate Reality is love.