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Monday, March 14, 2011

"Catholic priest first Canadian confirmed dead in Japanese earthquake"

From the Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL — A 76-year-old Roman Catholic priest from Quebec is dead after his car was hit Friday by a tsunami wave in Japan, officials confirmed Sunday.

Andre Lachapelle, who was working as a missionary in Shiogama, is the sole Canadian victim of the 8.9-magnitude earthquake to date.

Working with the Quebec Foreign Missions Society, Lachapelle was in Sendai when the earthquake hit, according to a report posted on the society’s website.

He was en route to his parish in Shiogama — mere kilometres away — when his car was hit by a tsunami wave.

Guy Charbonneau, the society’s superior-general in Laval, said Sunday afternoon that Lachapelle had been identified by his Canadian passport, which he was carrying at the time of his death. Charbonneau said he had been informed of his colleague’s death on Saturday morning.

Lachapelle had been ministering in Japan since 1961, a year after he was ordained, Charbonneau said, and returned occasionally to Quebec.

He remembered his colleague as a refined man with a dry sense of humour and a fascination with Japanese culture.

"He very much liked dialogue with other faiths," Charbonneau said, noting that at one point during his time in Japan, Lachapelle had worked as a prison chaplain with Protestant pastors, Buddhist monks and Hindu priests.

The Department of Foreign Affairs informed Charbonneau about the man’s death through police.

While there are currently 1,773 Canadian citizens registered with the Canadian Embassy in Japan — with very few registered in the affected area — officials estimate there are 10,000 to 12,000 Canadians in the country overall.

It is feared as many as 10,000 people were killed as a result of the quake, which struck about 260 kilometres off Japan’s northeast coast, triggering a tsunami with metres-high waves.

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