Gaston Tremblay (Father Jean-Grégoire de la Trinité, 1928-2011), leader and “Pope Gregory XVII” of the Apostles of the Infinite Love, a Canadian Catholic splinter group, died in the hospital of Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, in the Canadian region of the Laurentides, on December 31, 2011.
Tremblay was born in Rimouski, Québec, on September 8, 1928. In 1944 he joined as a lay brother the Catholic religious order of Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God, which he left in 1952 with the intention of establishing his own new religious order. On May 13, 1953 he established the Congregation of Jesus and Mary.
Quarrels with Catholic hierarchies led Tremblay in 1961 to join the Renewed Church of Christ, a splinter group led by Michel-Auguste-Marie Collin Collin (1905-1974), a French priest excommunicated by his bishop in 1960. In 1963 Collin claimed that he had been consecrated at the new Pope directly by the Heaven under the name of Clemens XV, and established his own “Vatican” in Clémery, France. Tremblay recognized Collin as the legitimate Pope, and Collin, in turn, first ordained Tremblay as a priest and then consecrated him as a bishop for the Renewed Church of Christ.
In 1962 Tremblay converted his organization into the Order of Magnificat of the Mother of God and established its center in the Monastery of St. Jovite, Quebec. In 1973, the name Apostles of Infinite Love was also adopted. This foundation, according to Tremblay, had been announced by the Virgin Mary during her apparition in La Salette in 1846 (the apparition, but obviously not Tremblay’s interpretation of it, is officially recognized by the Catholic Church). Several missions were opened by Tremblay outside of Canada, with a notable success in the French Antilles.
In 1968, Tremblay and Collin parted company, and Tremblay was proclaimed by his followers the new Pope – in fact, the only Pope for the whole Catholic Church – under the name of Gregory XVII. The new “Vatican” in the large property of St. Jovite was heavily criticized by the Catholic press and by the anti-cult movement. Suspicions of sexual abuses of children and other wrongdoings surrounded Tremblay for several years. In 1978 he was arrested and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1979, he was again sentenced to two years in jail for having kept a minor in the community without the authorization of his parents. In 1999 the police raided again the community looking for evidence of sexual abuses of minor, but no trial followed.
Apart from the 1999 raid, the community appears to have lived a quiet life and maintained a quite low profile, with missions in the United States, Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Santo Domingo and Ecuador, and minor presences in France, South Africa and Italy. It combines a very traditional set of Catholic beliefs and symbols with peculiar innovations of Tremblay, including the admission of women to priesthood.
According to Canadian media, Michel Lavallée, aka Father Mathurin of the Mother of God, who had important positions in the companies managing the finances of the movement, has been selected as Tremblay's successor.