Members of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo's regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, carry his flag-draped casket after the funeral service at Christ's Church Anglican Cathedral in Hamilton, Ont. Photo: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press
Crowds lined the streets as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo’s casket was carried through Hamilton to Christ’s Church Anglican Cathedral, where his funeral was held Oct. 28.
Cirillo, who was gunned down by a masked assailant while standing guard beside the National War Memorial, has touched off a deep wellspring of grief across the nation and among those present to pay their respects were Prime Minister Stephen Harper, leaders of the opposition Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, various high-ranking officers from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Dean Peter Wall, rector of the cathedral and dean of Niagara, noted his surprise at how the national and the city had catalyzed around the event. “We had people lined up across the street from the cathedral four or five deep for three or four hours.”
The bishop of the diocese of Niagara, Michael Bird, whose role in the service involved proclaiming the gospel and offering the blessings and commendation, said he felt humbled by the experience. “It felt like the whole country was watching us and was with us in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced before in my ministry,” he said in an interview with theAnglican Journal. “It was quite dramatic and powerful. And it was a real privilege.”
The funeral was held at the cathedral due to its historic and personal ties to Cirillo’s regiment, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders; the armoury where the regiment is based is down the street from the cathedral, and the regimental chaplain, Major the Rev. Canon Robert Fead, is an Anglican priest with the diocese of Niagara. Cirillo himself also came from an Anglican background.
Speaking of the delicacy of holding this kind of very public funeral, Wall said that “it’s always a challenge for those of us in the church to get our heads sometimes around what it means to be a civic institution,” noting that “the only assumption you can make is that it is as widely diverse as possible.” He went on to acknowledge how different it was from the kinds of services the cathedral is accustomed to, and he gave credit to the sensitive planning of Fead and the regiment.
But Wall and Bird were also quick to speak of the gratitude different members of the public had expressed. “To a person, everyone genuinely was so grateful that they were at the cathedral, and grateful for all the effort that went into making that day what it was,” said Bird. “This was a unique experience in my 30 years of ministry.”
Editor's Note: A correction has been made to the second paragraph of the story, which mentioned that US State Secretary John Kerry was at the funeral of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. Kerry laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa to honour Cirillo.Back to Top
André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.
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