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Cardinal Paul-Émile Léger

Paul-Émile Léger is born on April 26 in Valleyfield, Quebec.

He enters the Grand Séminaire de Montréal.

He is ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Montréal. Paul-Émile Léger then joins the Society of Saint-Sulpice, entering its novitiate in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris. Blessed with great communication skills, he becomes a professor at the Catholic Institute of Paris.

His dream of becoming a missionary is realized when his superiors send him to Japan to establish a seminary. Within six months, he has mastered the language and delivers his first homilies in Japanese. He is only 29 years old!

The Second World War breaks out and Paul-Émile Léger must leave Japan.

Back in Canada, he is named Vicar General of the Valleyfield diocese.

Paul-Émile Léger returns to Europe where he works as Rector of the Pontifical Canadian College in Rome.

Seeing how war had devastated Europe, he creates his first endeavour, The Gold Cross. Through its interventions, Italian, French and German children receive entire boatloads of food and other goods donated by Canadians.

Paul-Émile Léger returns to Canada. Pope Pius XII names him Archbishop of Montréal. From that moment until 1967, he will host Chapelet en famille, a radio program broadcast on CKAC that invites families to say the rosary.

He is the first bishop of Montréal to be named Cardinal. He pursues his many commitments to the most destitute. Using his ability to mobilize people, he creates La Grande corvée de Montréal to contribute to building and renovating institutions that help the population.

First stay in Africa, where he visits Canadian missions. Touched by the suffering of leprosy patients, he returns to Canada and raises funds to improve their care. This endeavour, known as Fame Pereo, will bring financial aid to 82 leprosaria in 22 African countries.

Paul-Émile Léger does something unprecedented in the history of the Church: he renounces his Archbishop’s title to become a missionary in Africa. On December 11, he leaves Montréal for Cameroon.

He works to develop clinics, hospitals, schools and orphanages in several African countries.

Back in Montreal, he pursues his mission helping the disadvantaged, despite his fledging health. He visits his loyal partners who now work on three continents, and caters to the needs of the disadvantaged in Canada.

Paul-Émile Léger dies on November 13, after a remarkable life dedicated to others, leaving three very active international endeavours, three endeavours in Quebec and one serving both the international and Quebec community. These endeavours will carry on his mission of fighting misery and promoting peace.



  • Companion of the Order of Canada (1968).
  • Honorary degrees (Law, Humane Letters and Theology) from several universities.
  • Grand Officer of the Ordre national du Québec (1985)
  • Pearson Peace Medal, the very first ever awarded by the United Nations Association in Canada (1979).


Read more

Books by Micheline Lachance (in French) :
Tome 1, Paul-Émile Léger – Le Prince de l’Église (1904-1967)
Tome 2, Paul-Émile Léger – Le dernier voyage (1967-1991)

Websites (in French) :