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Toronto’s St. Michael’s Cathedral reopens to joyous applause after five year, $128M renovation

cathedral-1Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto conducts Mass at the newly renovated St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica, Friday Sept. 30, 2016.
TORONTO — Fr. Michael Busch, rector of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto, was only making a little joke, about how people are always asking how much work it must be, renovating a huge downtown church all by yourself.

It was hardly an applause line, especially from a priest in a pulpit. But this was a midday Mass to thank the workers who spent five years shoring up the foundation of the 168-year-old centre of Upper Canadian Catholicism, bolstering the stone and brick with hidden steel, installing tiled floors and new statues, and painting the ceiling by hand.

Even after all the singing, backed by a brass band and a new Quebec-made organ, something about that reno joke sparked a contagious enthusiasm. It was the first chance for people to give thanks personally, rather than just hear Archbishop of Toronto Thomas Collins say it.

It started with one man in a worker’s jacket in the front row, rising to his feet and clapping.

Supportive applause rose gingerly from the pews. Some people around him stood up, too, but tentatively. Then the workers joined in together, and churchly decorum stood no chance.

Across the aisle, the boys in red blazers from the choir school took their cue to pop up en masse. Seeing this unfold from above, everyone in the new balcony leaped to their feet, so as not be the last ones up. They barely beat the archbishop. Fr. Busch had to wave everyone down a few moments later.

On Friday, St. Michael’s was reopened and consecrated as a minor basilica, a church of special ceremonial importance.

It was envisioned by Michael Power, first bishop of Toronto, who gathered the money and charity and laid the cornerstone in 1845, two years before he died and was buried in a tomb under the altar. His and dozens of other bodies were disinterred and reburied during the renovation.