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Thousands expected to attend gatherings - 2008-11-22

Saturday, 2008, November 22
The Vancouver Sun
Douglas Todd

Huge events set for Roman Catholics, Ismaili Muslims
VANCOUVER - Two large events will be held by religious organizations downtown in the next few days, despite B.C.'s reputation as one of the most secular regions of the continent.

More than 12,000 Roman Catholics are expected to gather at 1 p.m. Sunday at GM Place to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the archdiocese of Vancouver.

And an expected crowd of 25,000 Ismaili Muslims will meet at BC Place on Tuesday to mark the 50th anniversary of the reign of their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan, who is on a cross-country tour.

The Roman Catholic mass will be led by Canada's leading Catholic prelate, Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Quebec, who has on occasion been cited by experienced Vatican observers as a potential candidate for pope.

It will be the largest gathering of Catholics in Vancouver since 1998. Archdiocese representative Jeff Graham said the site of Vancouver Canucks hockey games is being transformed into a sacred setting, including with banners that look like stained glass.

The Canadian census reports that 43 per cent of Canadians consider themselves Catholics, at least nominally.

In B.C. that percentage drops to just 17 per cent.

Still, there are more than 340,000 Roman Catholics in Metro Vancouver. Independent polling suggests roughly one-third are regular attendees, including many who are immigrants from Asia, particularly the Philippines.

Even though there are only about 15,000 Ismailis in B.C., followers of the Aga Khan will be coming from Washington State and other parts of the U.S. to celebrate his golden jubilee.

In addition to meeting adherents during his eight-day tour of Canada, the European-based Aga Khan will visit many dignitaries and politicians. In Vancouver he'll meet Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan as well as Premier Gordon Campbell.

A news release issued for the Aga Khan's visit said he 'completed his 50th year as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims on 11th July 2007, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah.

The Aga Khan leads a community of 15 million Ismaili Muslims living in some 25 countries around the world and is a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.'

Most Muslims in Canada and B.C. are members of the much larger Sunni branch of the religion.

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