LEGER, Paul-Emile Cardinal (1904-91)
Archbishop of Montreal. In the 1960s, Leger gave up all of the trappings of office as cardinal to move to Cameroon, West Africa where he worked with lepers and the handicapped. Leger was the founder of “Cardinal Leger and His Endeavours”. Of his resignation from the See of Montreal, Leger commented “…I have reached an age where a certain sclerosis of soul has set in…”
SP – Signed Photograph. A 4″x5″ color photograph which the cardinal signed on the lower white mount.
FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES:
TORONTO, Nov. 13— Paul Emile Cardinal Leger, a former Archbishop of Montreal who gave up the trappings afforded a prince of the Roman Catholic Church to work among lepers and handicapped children in Africa, died in Montreal today. He was 87 years old.
He died of respiratory failure, hospital officials in Montreal said.
Cardinal Leger spent 12 years in the Cameroon after heading Canada’s largest Catholic diocese for 17 years. He was considered one of the more influential prelates of the 20th century. At the conclave that elected a successor to Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Leger’s name was frequently mentioned as one of the possible candidates for the papacy.
“It will be the great scandal of the history of our century that 500 million people are eating well and living luxuriously and every year millions of children are dying of hunger,” he once said.
Those who worked with Cardinal Leger said he had a gift for inspiring people to help others. “He was always preoccupied with what happened to others and finding ways to alleviate the misery of people,” said Bishop Louis-de-Gonzague Langevin, of the St.-Hyacinthe diocese, east of Montreal. Homage from the Pope
Pope John Paul II sent a message of condolence, recalling the Cardinal Leger’s long pastoral service and “the warmth of his outgoing and charitable personality in the world.”
Bishop Jean-Claude Turcotte, the current Archbishop of Montreal, said Cardinal Leger was a man “very well loved for his simplicity.”
In 1963, while participating in the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Leger toured African leper colonies. Shaken by what he saw, he started raising money for the lepers. Five years later, with those sights still seared in his memory, he stunned Canadians by resigning as Archbishop of Montreal to return to Africa and work among the lepers and impoverished children as a missionary.
“It is individual gestures, though they are often quite unspectacular,” he once said, “which will make all the difference in the long run.” Lived in a Trailer
He settled in Cameroon, where he founded the Fame Pereo Institute for Lepers and the Center for the Rehabilitation of the Handicapped, a hospital for handicapped children, many of them with polio. For most of the next 12 years he lived in a construction trailer beside the hospital.
Returning to Montreal, he set up a relief agency in his name and that of his brother, a former Governor General of Canada, who died in 1980. Over the last decade the Jules and Paul Emile Leger Foundation has distributed about $12 million a year from private and government donors to the poor in 60 countries.
Once the Cardinal, an effective public speaker who often addressed business groups, opened a fund-raising campaign on the floor of the Montreal Stock Exchange, saying, “In a country like ours where so much money circulates, there are always a few crumbs worth picking up.