Knights Mourn Death of Cardinal Edouard Gagnon
Canadian Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, the former president of the Pontifical Council for the Family and a member of the Knights of Columbus for more than 50 years, died in Montreal on Aug. 25 at the age of 89.
Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said the Order “mourns the death of Cardinal Gagnon, a great defender of the institution of the family and a faithful shepherd of the Church, whom we have been proud to call a brother Knight.” Cardinal Gagnon joined the Order 1950 and was a member of St. Boniface Council 3158 in Manitoba.
“His Eminence Cardinal Gagnon was a deeply prayerful man who did immense good for countless souls and for the Church as a whole during his long and faithful service to Jesus Christ,” Anderson said. “His work with the Pontifical Council for the Family helped bring to prominence the Church’s message regarding the centrality of the family to society and to the welfare of children. In addition, he was a dedicated Knight of Columbus who greatly supported the mission and work of our Order, in keeping with the renewed sense of the lay apostolate enunciated by the Second Vatican Council.”
Cardinal Gagnon was born in Port-Daniel, Quebec, on January 15, 1918. He was ordained a priest for the Society of St. Sulpice in 1940, and in 1969 was named bishop of Saint Paul in Alberta, Canada.
In 1973, Pope Paul VI appointed him vice president of the Vatican’s newly created Committee for the Family, and he became president the following year. When Pope John Paul II elevated the office to the rank of a pontifical council, he remained president with the title of archbishop. In the consistory of May 25, 1985, he was elevated to the Sacred College of Cardinals.
After leaving his position with the Pontifical Council for the Family, Cardinal Gagnon became president of the Pontifical Committee for International Eucharistic Congresses. He was an adviser for the first Knights of Columbus Eucharistic Congress in 2002.
Cardinal Gagnon was a fixture at many Knights of Columbus events, including pilgrimages of the Board of Directors to Rome, the Order’s Eucharistic Congresses and Supreme Conventions. Cardinal Gagnon last attended the 122nd Annual Supreme Council meeting, held in Dallas, in 2004, and gave what would be his final address to the Order. In his remarks, Cardinal Gagnon asked convention attendees to “allow an old man to share with you a couple of ideas,” and urged Knights to make all their “acts of generosity more valuable” by making them in the name of Christ.
His Eminence stated, “[B]ecome an evangelizer, that is, a herald of Christ, by saying without human respect that it is because of Christ’s demands, it is for him that you take courageous initiatives, that you can conquer difficulties, fatigue or simple laziness, that you do great things so vividly depicted in our Supreme Knight’s Report. This is what we mean when we say: Vivat Jesus!”
Cardinal Gagnon lectured at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University in Washington, D.C., of which the Knights of Columbus is the major sponsor. To recognize Cardinal Gagnon’s yeoman contributions to the study of the family, the Edouard Cardinal Gagnon Professorship of Fundamental Theology was created at the Institute by the Knights of Columbus.