Blessings Bestowed on the Beechwood National Memorial Centre

    OTTAWA, Nov. 28 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's multi-faith leaders gathered
today to bless the newly-built Beechwood National Memorial Centre. The
blessing ceremony is an important first spiritual step in the Beechwood
Cemetery's preparation for the official opening of the Memorial Centre in the
spring of 2008.
    The Beechwood National Memorial Centre was designed after extensive
consultations with major faith groups to serve the memorial and commemorative
needs of Canada's diverse faith communities. As a result, it is devoid of any
religious symbols. The Memorial Centre is intended to serve as an
inspirational setting for services, ceremonies and memorials, special events,
concerts and other celebrations of life.
    "This blessing ceremony reminds us of the spiritual purpose of this new
multi-faith Memorial Centre," said Mrs. Grete Hale, Chair of the Beechwood
Cemetery Foundation. "In the spirit of unity in diversity, we've created an
inclusive sacred space where Canadians of all faiths can honour their loved
    The 14,000 square foot, nine-sided facility was designed by Ottawa's
Robertson Martin Architects. The Sacred Space area features a soaring vaulted
ceiling, a large sky lit dome and, in the centre, a large 14-tonne rock. The
stately facility also includes a large reception room and a Hall of Colours
for military ceremonies. The Memorial Centre is believed to be the first of
its kind in the world.
    "The rock at the heart of the Beechwood National Memorial Centre says it
all," said Padre Gerry Peddle, the former Chaplain General of the Canadian
Forces and Vice-Chair of the Beechwood Cemetery Foundation. "It reminds us
that, in the midst of our mourning, there is another reality that is eternal."
    On this historical day, spiritual leaders from 30 faith groups
participated in the blessing ceremony and deposited their holy funeral rites
in the Sacred Space as a symbol of support for the new facility. Playing a key
role was Brigadier-General Stanley Johnstone, Chaplain General of the Canadian
Forces, who blessed both the Hall of Colours and the beautiful memorial
stained glass window donated by the Canadian Military Chaplains' Association
to pay tribute to military chaplains, past and present.
    Also part of today's ceremony was the "laying-up" of colours (regimental
flags) in the Hall of Colours by two of the largest Canadian military
regiments. The Royal Canadian Regiment, Canada's senior Regular Force Infantry
Regiment, and The Royal 22nd Regiment, presented their sacred colours to BGen.
Johnstone. As is the tradition, the colours will hang in the Hall of Colours,
untouched, until they completely deteriorate. In the years to come, it is
expected that other regiments will also bring their colours to Beechwood.
    "Our new Beechwood National Memorial Centre reflects the powerful vision
that is evolving at The Beechwood Cemetery," said Sylvia Ceacero, Executive
Director of the Beechwood Cemetery and Foundation. "We are charting new
territory by acknowledging Canada's cultural diversity through the design of
relevant, welcoming facilities and services." In keeping with the Beechwood
Cemetery's vision, the Memorial Centre creates a sacred space to pay tribute
to all of Canada's heroes - leaders of government and the military, along with
our everyday heroes, she added. Ms. Ceacero noted that the Beechwood Cemetery
will continue to develop sensitive bereavement programs that more effectively
support families at the time of their loss, and afterward.

    The Beechwood Cemetery is home to the National Military Cemetery and is a
Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Memorial Cemetery. It is also the final
resting place for many prominent Canadians who helped shape Ottawa and the
country, including many former City of Ottawa mayors, politicians such as
former Prime Minister Sir Robert Borden, Tommy Douglas, and former Governor
General Ramon Hnatyshyn.

For further information:

For further information: Media contacts: Lisa Robertson, (613) 739-7032;
Susan Wright, (613) 730-2020;

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