Hundreds of people, many of them homeless, gathered around Father Johns' coffin at his funeral. He was taken to his last rest surrounded by young and old, to whom he devoted a good part of his life.
The ceremony was celebrated by the Archbishop of Montreal, Christian Lépine. He painted a portrait of a man of incredible benevolence who had the "stroke of genius" to meet the homeless youth aboard a motorized caravan.
The Archbishop pointed out that his approach has since been "imitated" – a low hat for the Good God in the Street organization, which Father Johns had founded in 1988.
"Love was the mainstay of the life of Pops," said deacon François Lehmann, friend and doctor of the deceased, responsible for pronouncing the homily. According to him, the tribute reserved for Father Johns is "a celebration of love".
This is what love does: it gathers and welcomes difference.
Current Director of Youth Services Dans la rue, Caroline Dufour, paid tribute to Pops at the ceremony by telling her first steps as a speaker. She admitted that he had to teach her to stop perceiving homeless youth as "packages of problems to be solved".
Former homeless people also took the floor to deliver testimonials in addition to providing musical performances.
"There are people in this church who are very different from each other. Some with suit and tie and many others with multicolored hair and sometimes rings, here and there, "said one of the young people who knew Pops.
Eight former beneficiaries of the Dans la rue organization carried the coffin at the exit of the basilica.
Five musicians of the Orchester symphonique de Montréal took part in the funeral while performing the famous song Hallelujah composed by Leonard Cohen, one of Father Johns favorite pieces.
Before the funeral, the mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, took the opportunity to express her intention to integrate the name of the deceased in the toponymy of the city.
"We work in collaboration with Dans la rue. We thought it was important to do the process with them and what we're heading for is to use a park in the corner of Center-Sud, where Dans la rue is located, "said Ms. Plante.
The many dignitaries present only had good words for Father Johns.
"It's someone who gives dignity to people, hope, self-esteem," said Denis Coderre, Mayor of Montreal until the election of Valérie Plante in November.
"He has helped young people a lot by respecting them, giving them a lot of love and hope," said Gérald Tremblay, who has been Mayor of Montreal for 10 years, until 2012.
Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly was also present at the ceremony. She wrote on Twitter that the "footprint (of Father Johns) will remain forever on Montreal".
Lucie Charlebois, Québec's Minister Responsible for Youth Protection, thanked him for his "dedication to youth".
Ministers Marc Garneau, Martin Coiteux, Kathleen Weil and Hélène David also confirmed their presence.
Flags at half mast
However, it was not a national funeral, as was the wish of the president of SOS Itinerance, Alexandre Paradis.
The flags were half-masted for the occasion, including the Parliament Building in Quebec City.
Father Johns' remains had been exposed in a chapel at Montreal City Hall on Thursday and Friday.
Father Emmett Johns died on January 13 at the age of 89 from natural causes.
This priest, who had Parkinson's disease, was one of the important faces in the fight against homelessness in Montreal. He traveled the streets of downtown Montreal for years, at night, in a motor home to help street youth.
With information from Sébastien Desrosiers