March 23, 2015

OTTAWA -– The first national Pope John Paul II Day falls on April 2 to mark the day the new saint died 10 years ago. On Parliament Hill, the national day will be celebrated April 1.

Conservative MP Wladyslaw Lizon, who put forward the private member's bill that became law last year, said Parliament is celebrating a day early because April 2 is Holy Thursday.

Many MPs and senators will be traveling back to their ridings that day for the Easter break, he said.

"We're going to have a reception hosted by the speaker of the House," Lizon said. The reception will include parliamentarians, and people from a range of different communities to commemorate the life of a great world leader.

"There's a lot to talk about," said Lizon. "His legacy is so important.

"Everything he stood for is so alive and important today," he said, pointing to the difficulties in Ukraine, the Middle East, Pakistan and Iran, and "everywhere where Christians or non-Christians are persecuted for their beliefs."

St. John Paul II taught that "we should always stand up for those people and stand up for basic human rights, human dignity and freedom of religion," Lizon said, noting Canada has always stood up for these principles.

Pope John Paul II Day will be "an occasion of great joy," he said. He wants to share the celebration with people who have come to Canada "from all corners of the world."

"I'm delighted there's a day in honour of St. Pope John Paul II," said Conservative MP Pierre Lemieux, president of the Canada Holy See Parliamentary Friendship Group.

The group is composed of about 75 MPs and senators across party lines.

"Pope John Paul II was a very holy man," said Lemieux. "He was a great pope, but also a great leader throughout the world, and he's recognized as such."