After 19 years as the head of the Interfaith Affairs office at the Archdiocese of Toronto, Fr. Damian MacPherson, left, will be replaced by Nova Scotia-born Fr. Tim MacDonald Feb. 1. Register file photo and photo courtesy of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement

Fr. Damian MacPherson steps down from Archdiocese Interfaith post

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  • January 27, 2017

Franciscan Fr. Damian MacPherson is passing on the interfaith torch after 19 years of service.

As of Feb. 1, MacPherson steps down as the Archdiocese of Toronto’s director of the Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs.

For almost two decades, he helped create lines of communication among Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and other faith leaders to bring the Archdiocese of Toronto to the centre of the city’s ecumenical and interfaith movement.

“As the work goes on, we can only hope to continue to make an important contribution to the goal of the Church ecumenically and with interfaith work,” said MacPherson. “The degree to which our dialogue is successful is the degree to which we succeed.”

When he first came into the role in 1998, MacPherson, 73, said the office was relatively quiet but when he began to create friendships among the major faith communities in the Greater Toronto Area, he found a spirit of openness and readiness.

The result of these friendships became the Toronto Area Interfaith Council (TAIC) which MacPherson officially established in 2008. The council continues to be an active group of representatives of faith communities and will be a key participant in Faith in Canada 150.

“Because I’ve been able to work with (faith leaders), I’ve been able to understand the value of what we share,” he said.

One of the proudest moments of MacPherson’s career was when his friend and colleague, Rabbi Erwin Schild, was presented with a rare papal blessing to mark his 70th wedding anniversary to his wife, Laura.

“It’s another sort of gesture of building bridges between Catholics and Jews,” he said.

He passes the torch to Nova Scotia-born Fr. Timothy MacDonald, former vicar general (2009-2014) of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement who was ecumenical director of the archdiocese before MacPherson took over the role in 1998.

MacPherson will serve in a “consultative capacity” in the archdiocese until June 2017. His last act as director will be to preside a special Mass on Feb. 5 to present certificates to this year’s winners of the Friar’s Student Writing Contest, a partnership MacPherson established with The Catholic Register since 2002.

(Story originally published Jan. 27, 2017 at 13:00; updated on Feb. 2, 2017 at 12:48)

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