By Rachel Boomer

(Halifax Daily News, May 17, 2007) – Catholic politicians can’t, and shouldn’t, check their faith at the door of the House of Commons when they vote on issues like abortion and gay marriage, says the newly appointed archbishop of Ottawa. “They should take their faith into full consideration in the decisions they take for the good of the people,” Archbishop Terrence Prendergast told reporters yesterday. He’s leaving the Halifax archdiocese after nine years at its helm. “I would call every politician who’s a person of faith to bring their faith to bear. The notion of a separation of church and state is a very American thing … I think that’s just not appropriate, and I think many people feel the same way as I do.”

He said he’ll push politicians to consider limits on abortion, and to respect Catholic teachings when considering euthanasia, an issue he expects to gain public prominence in the years to come.

The gay marriage issue, he added, is “not going to go away” either, despite a sense that December’s Parliamentary vote laid it to rest. Prendergast was appointed the new archbishop of Ottawa on Monday. He’ll officially take his new job June 25. No new bishop has been chosen for Halifax yet; that will likely take three to six months.

Prendergast hasn’t shied away from the limelight during his time in Halifax. Last September, he wrote a letter to 16,000 metro Catholics, asking them to urge a free vote on the definition of marriage. “What I think the church needs to do is to say the truth as it sees it. And it needs to continue to repeat it, even at a time when people don’t want to hear it. When the time is appropriate, we ought to say our piece,” Prendergast said. “I intend to do that.”

His tenure also saw the closing of St. Joseph’s Church in the north end, and Prendergast recently announced another controversial closure: St. Patrick’s Church on Brunswick Street, slated to merge with St. Mary’s Basilica. “If we spend all our time and energy looking after things that come from the past and not look to the future, the church isn’t going to go where it should go. It has to have the energy to evangelize, so in the future, if people come back in bigger numbers, maybe we’ll need bigger churches,” Prendergast said. “The peninsula of Halifax is overstocked with churches. We have more than we need, and we need more in the suburbs.” Prendergast said he’s recommended that Rome merge the Halifax archdiocese with the diocese of Yarmouth, where he is apostolic administrator.

© The Daily News, May 17, 2007