Pope apologizes for treatment of Indigenous people in Canada, promises visit – Catholic Standard

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Expressing “his sadness and shame” for the complicity of Catholics in the abuse of indigenous children in Canada and the attempt to erase their culture, Pope Francis has pledged to address the issue in more detail during his visit to Canada.

“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church,” the pope told indigenous representatives on April 1, “I ask God’s forgiveness, and I want to tell you with all my heart: I am truly sorry.”

Representatives of the Métis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Assembly of First Nations had asked Pope Francis to apologize for the church’s role in running residential schools in Canada, but they asked him to apologize to Canada.

The pope also responded to this request.

Saying to be impressed by their devotion to Sainte-Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, the centerpiece of the popular Lac Ste. At Anne’s pilgrimage, scheduled for July 25-28 this year, Pope Francis told them, “This year, I would like to be with you on those days.”

The sanctuary of Sainte-Anne, on Lac Ste. Anne, is located in central Alberta, not far from Edmonton.

Gathered in the frescoed Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace, Métis, Inuit and First Nations representatives shared their prayers, music, dance and gifts with the Pope.

The pope had held separate meetings on March 28 with Métis and Inuit representatives and met on March 31 with delegates from the Assembly of First Nations. They were accompanied by six Canadian bishops.

Addressing all delegates and their supporters over the weekend, Pope Francis recalled that many delegates compared their communities to branches, growing in different directions, buffeted by the wind, but still living because they are attached to the trunk and deep roots of the tree. .

“Your tree, which bears fruit, has suffered a tragedy, which you have told me about in recent days: uprooting,” he said. The normal transmission of language, culture and spirituality from one generation to the next “has been shattered by colonization, which, without respect, has snatched many” from their homeland and tried to force them to adopt other ways.

Catholics could not use trying to evangelize the natives as an excuse to run the schools because “faith cannot be transmitted in a way contrary to faith itself,” the pope said.

The Gospel calls Christians ‘to welcome, love, serve and not judge’, he said, and it is a ‘frightening thing’ when, in the name of this faith, Christians act the opposite .

“Through your voices,” he told delegates, “I have been able to touch with my own hands and carry within me, with great sadness in my heart, the stories of suffering, deprivation, discriminatory treatment and various forms of abuse suffered by many of you, especially in residential schools.”

Pope Francis said it’s “chilling” to think about the amount of thought and effort that goes into designing and running a system to instill “a sense of inferiority” in students and the community. attempt “to make someone lose their cultural identity, to sever their roots, with all the personal and social consequences that this has had and continues to have: unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas.

“I feel shame – pain and shame – for the role that a number of Catholics, especially those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that have hurt you, in the abuses that you suffered and in disrespect for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,” he said.

These values ​​were on display during the meeting at the Apostolic Palace, which began with representatives offering their prayers.

First Nations Elder Fred Kelly, wearing a feathered headdress and offering a prayer in Nishnawbe and English, prayed for the gifts of “love, kindness, respect, truth, gentleness and humility from Sole Creator”.

Métis elder Emile Janvier, a residential school survivor, recited his prayer in Dene-Michif, asking the Creator to heal “the wounds of the past” and give him the strength to move forward “in forgiveness and reconciliation “.

Marty and Lizzie Angotaluk, members of the Inuit delegation, led the chanting of the Our Father in Inuktitut.

During individual meetings earlier in the week, the elected leaders of the groups asked Pope Francis for an official apology for the role of the Catholic Church in suppressing their languages, cultures and spiritualities and, in particular, for the role of the Church in running many boarding schools that were part of the government’s forced assimilation plan and where many children were emotionally, physically and sexually abused.

Leaders also called on Pope Francis to travel to Canada to make this apology and asked for his help in gaining access to more school records so that a full history of schools can be written and children in unmarked graves can be identified.

But the bulk of the private meetings with the pope have been spent with residential school survivors telling their stories.

Pope Francis thanked the delegates for “opening your hearts and expressing a desire to walk together,” and he assured them that he brought all their stories to his prayer.

And, he said he was looking forward to learning more about them and meeting their families when he visited their lands, but, he said, pointing to the Inuit, “I’m not going there in winter”.

Thanking the Pope for agreeing to visit Canada, Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, President of the Canadian Episcopal Conference, told Pope Francis: “We are ready today to help you make your suitcases!

The recent history of the Catholic Church, he said, “is marked by the stigma of errors and failures to love our neighbour, especially towards members of those nations who have been present in Canada for centuries.” .

An acknowledgment of the Church’s failures makes “our desire for reconciliation” even stronger, he said. “Our presence here is a testament to our commitment to each other and to each other.”

Pope Francis presented each delegation with a bronze olive branch as a sign of peace and reconciliation, according to the Canadian Episcopal Conference.

The Assembly of First Nations presented the Pope with a liturgical stole, beaded with orange crosses, and a pair of black ash snowshoes with caribou and artificial sinews.

The Métis National Council gave her a souvenir book with the stories of Métis residential school survivors and a letter from Cassidy Caron, board chair.

The Inuit gave the pope a cross carved from the baleen of a bowhead whale and riveted to a sterling silver coin and a sealskin pouch with an ivory button.

Representatives of the Assembly of First Nations pose for a group photo in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on March 31, 2022. Pope Francis is hosting three meetings to hear the experiences of representatives of Canada’s indigenous communities, experiences that include sending children to school residences run by Catholic dioceses and religious orders. (SNC Photo/Paul Haring)

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