Ukrainian-Catholic to lead government’s new religious freedom office

image001A Ukrainian-Catholic has been picked to lead a new federal office with a mandate to promote religious tolerance globally, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday followed through on an election promise made almost two years ago.

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Andrew Bennett, 40, a former federal bureaucrat and Ukrainian Catholic sub-deacon, has been named the first ambassador to head the Office of Religious Freedom, an agency the Conservative Party promised in the last federal election campaign. The measure, inspired in part by the 2011 assassination of an outspoken Christian cabinet minister in Pakistan, was popular with evangelical Christian supporters of the Conservatives and some immigrant groups courted by the party.

Dr. Bennett is also a religious leader. He serves as sub-deacon and cantor with the Holy Cross Eastern Catholic Chaplaincy and St. John the Baptist Ukrainian-Catholic Shrine in Ottawa.

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In addition, he is in the process of completing a part-time degree in theology in Eastern Christian Studies at the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at Saint Paul University in Ottawa.

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