Greeting Pope Francis at Edmonton Airport, Assembly of First Nations National Chief, RoseAnne Archibald and other First Nations people Greeting Pope Francis at Edmonton Airport, Assembly of First Nations National Chief, RoseAnne Archibald and other First Nations people 

Canada's Indigenous Peoples: Awaiting the Pope in Edmonton

On Monday afternoon, Pope Francis gathers with some 150 parishioners of the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, Alberta. Some of them were at hand before the event to chat to Vatican Radio correspondents as the last preparations were put into place to welcome the Pope.

By Linda Bordoni & Marine Henriot

The renovation that took place after the fire two years ago that seriously damaged the Church of the Sacred Heart provided an opportunity to give prominence, within the building’s very architecture and decorative elements, to First Nations, Métis and Inuit symbols, like the four tipi poles that meet high above the altar, which itself is made out of a root ball.

Gary, Tony and Larnie, all of whom are parishioners at Sacred Heart, told Marine Henriot that the McCauley neighbourhood, where the church is located, is an area where many people who were moving off reserves in the last 40 years chose to live. So, over the years, Sacred Heart became the natural place where Indigenous Catholicism came to be expressed.

Gary Ganiel a Métis person from St Albert, north of Edmonton, has been coming here for over 25 years.

He reflects on the Pope’s presence and on the historic occasion for all involved:

““I think it is an opportunity for him to expand on that apology and to recognize the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the calls to action # 58. Those calls to action were approved by all the indigenous peoples across Canada.””

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action # 58 is the one that calls upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families and communities for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

“So he’s honouring that call to action n. 58,” Gary said, “It’s meaningful, and he’s staying true to his word. How beautiful that is.”

And this is not the only beautiful thing Gary refers to:

“It’s a new beginning, and new beginnings mean going forward and that’s beautiful.”

Tony Tran has been a parishioner at Sacred Heart for about three years. He hopes it will be a unifying experience for the wider community:

“With Pope Francis coming it’s going to be really good for the community spirit,” he noted, highlighting the fact that this visit represents a new beginning and that in the long term it will really make a difference to the process of healing.

“It’s going to probably bring conversations and discussions and raise awareness; they said it will take some six or seven generations of healing […] at least there is going to be awareness.”

Larnie Solum also harbours hopes for change within the community and the city: "I would like to see the atmosphere change over this city and I think the pope can help do that."

Pope Francis – it appears – is seen in Edmonton as a prophet of encounter, healing and reconciliation, helping to nurture fraternity, forgiveness, future…

“Because we all need a saviour.”

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25 July 2022, 16:36