Addressing the authorities, diplomats and natives of Quebec, Pope Francis denounces the “deplorable system” of historic residential schools in Canada, calling it a tragic example of a “culture of cancellation”, and calls concretely to “promote the legitimate rights of the indigenous populations and to favor the processes of appeasement and reconciliation between them and the non-indigenous people of the country”.
Jul 28, 2022
Pope in Quebec with authorities
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Pope Francis has denounced the historic “deplorable system” of residential schools in Canada, calling it a tragic example of a “culture of cancellation”, and called for “promoting the legitimate rights of indigenous peoples and fostering healing processes and reconciliation between them. and non-natives of the country. »
The Holy Father made these strong remarks during his meeting with civil authorities, representatives of indigenous peoples and members of the diplomatic corps in Quebec, marking his first public speech since arriving in Quebec.
The Pope is making a “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada, July 24-30, dedicated to healing, welcoming and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples who have suffered mistreatment and abuse over the centuries, as the colonial powers, including many Christians, were implicated in, or complicit in, attempts to erase their culture and identity.
This marks Pope Francis’ 37th apostolic visit abroad.
On the first leg of the Pope’s pilgrimage to Edmonton, Pope Francis profusely apologized for past “catastrophic” mistakes with the residential school system and called for an inquiry into how such tragedies can be prevented. do not reproduce.
“Deplorable system” of boarding schools
During the Pope’s meeting with the authorities and the natives on Wednesday in Quebec, he first thanked Her Excellency the Right Honorable Mary Simon and then His Excellency Justin Trudeau for their kind words of welcome, and spoke of the “extraordinary natural heritage”. of the country and its great beauty.
Pope Francis recalled Canada’s national symbol, the maple leaf, as an opportunity to observe that “the large size of maple leaves, which absorb polluted air and in turn release oxygen, invite us to marvel at the beauty of creation and appreciate the wholesome values present in indigenous cultures.”
During the Pope’s week in Canada, where he shared several highlights with the indigenous people of Edmonton, he expressed his commitment to help them.
“The Holy See and local Catholic communities are concretely committed to promoting indigenous cultures through specific and appropriate forms of spiritual accompaniment that include attention to their cultural traditions, customs, languages and educational processes, in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
He denounced the wrongs done to erase their culture.
“I am thinking above all of the policies of assimilation and emancipation, also involving the residential school system, which harmed many indigenous families by undermining their language, culture and worldview. In this deplorable system, promoted by the government authorities of the time, which separated many children from their families, various local Catholic institutions played a role.”
New request for forgiveness
The pope, who sincerely apologized to the natives of Edmonton, did not hesitate to do the same in Quebec.
“I express my deep shame and sorrow and, together with the bishops of this country, I renew my request for forgiveness for the wrong done by so many Christians to the indigenous peoples. It is tragic that some believers, as has happened at this time in history, to conform to the conventions of the world rather than to the gospel.”
The Christian faith, he acknowledged, played a vital role in shaping Canada’s highest ideals, characterized by the desire to build a better country for all its people.
“At the same time, he continued, it is necessary, while admitting our faults, to work together to accomplish a goal that I know you all share: to promote the legitimate rights of indigenous peoples and to promote healing processes and reconciliation between them and the non-indigenous people of the country. »
This, he said, is reflected in the commitment to respond appropriately to calls from the truth and reconciliation commissionas well as in the concern to recognize the rights of indigenous peoples.
The Holy See is committed to concretely promoting the rights of indigenous peoples
The Pope reiterated that the Holy See and local Catholic communities want to concretely promote the rights of indigenous peoples.
“It is our desire to renew the relationship between the Church and the Indigenous peoples of Canada, a relationship marked both by a love that has borne exceptional fruit and, tragically, by deep wounds that we are committed to understanding. and heal,” he said.
Expressing his gratitude for his five meetings at the Vatican to listen to representatives of indigenous peoples, the pope said he was happy to renew good relations now in Canada.
“The time we spent together marked me and left me with a strong desire to respond to the indignation and shame of the suffering endured by the indigenous peoples, and to move forward in a fraternal and patient journey with all Canadians, upholding truth and justice, working for healing and reconciliation, and constantly inspired by hope,” he said.
Healing takes time
“This story of suffering and contempt, fruit of the colonizing mentality,” observed the Pope, “does not heal easily.”
In addition to these apologies and this denunciation of the wrongs done to the Indigenous peoples, the Pope called for multilateralism.
“Multiculturalism is fundamental to the cohesion of a society as diverse as the mottled colors of the foliage of maple trees,” he said.
Recognizing that including newcomers can be a challenge and requires accepting and embracing differences, the pope commended Canada for the generosity it has shown in accepting many Ukrainian and Afghan migrants.
He urged to overcome “the rhetoric of fear towards immigrants and to give them, according to the possibilities of the country, the concrete opportunity to engage responsibly in society”.
For that to happen, he said, “rights and democracy are essential.”
The Catholic Church, he noted, “with its universal dimension, its concern for the most vulnerable, its legitimate service to human life at every moment of its existence, from conception to natural death, is happy to offer its specific contribution”.
Must work to stop, not prosecute wars
The Holy Father also reflected on the war in the world, as the war continues in Ukraine and several, often forgotten, wars are taking place around the world.
“We do not need to divide the world into friends and foes, to create distances and once again to arm ourselves to the teeth,” the pope said, noting that “an arms race and strategies of deterrence will not bring peace and security”.
“We must ask ourselves not how to continue wars, but how to stop them”, he launched, calling for “creative and far-sighted policies capable of going beyond categories of opposition in order to provide answers to global challenges “.
Working hand in hand on global challenges
“The great challenges of our time, such as peace, climate change, the effects of the pandemic and international migratory movements, all have one thing in common: they are global; they concern everyone,” the pope said, noting that “since everyone speaks of the need to consider the whole, politics cannot remain imprisoned in partisan interests.”
The pope urged all forces to work “with one accord, hand in hand” to face today’s pressing challenges.
Pope Francis concluded by thanking Canada and those before it for their hospitality, care and respect.