Pope Francis speaking at his meeting with delegations of indigenous peoples of Canada Pope Francis speaking at his meeting with delegations of indigenous peoples of Canada 

Canadian Bishops welcome Pope's apology to Indigenous peoples

Pope Francis asked for pardon during an audience with indigenous Canadians Friday in the Vatican, in the wake of recent revelations of abuse in Canada’s residential school system. The Pope also expressed his hope to visit the nation this year.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

Canada’s bishops have welcomed Pope Francis' historic apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system, according to a statement of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released on Friday afternoon.

Pope Francis asked for pardon during his audience with the entire Indigenous delegation to the Vatican on Friday, saying: “I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry.”

Asking for God’s Forgiveness

Expressing his “sorrow and shame” for the mistreatment and abuse of indigenous Canadians in the residential school system, the Pope said he joined his “brothers, the Canadian bishops,” in asking “your pardon.”

Speaking after the audience with Pope, the President of the CCCB, Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme, said, “We are deeply grateful to each of the Indigenous delegates who travelled with us to the Holy See to share their experiences and desires for a brighter future for their people.”

“The Holy Father,” the Canadian prelate continued, “has heard first-hand the stories of those who suffered at the hands of Catholic Church members, and has responded with compassion, remorse, and a genuine desire for truth, justice, and healing.”

A Week of Lived Experiences

Pope Francis had private encounters earlier in the week with Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth from across Canada, in which delegates shared with the Holy Father a range of lived experiences.

According to the CCCB statement, “Through shared prayers, the exchange of gifts, and the telling of powerful stories, Pope Francis was moved by their courage, their commitment, and their resilience in the face of suffering.”

The statement added that the Pope, “emphasized his shame for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system, and re-committed to visiting with them on Canadian soil.”

A Pledge to Heal

The CCCB Vice President, Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary, said, “As Catholics, we believe in the restorative power of apologies. But acknowledging wrongdoing is only one step of the healing journey. We all have a role to play in healing the wound that was opened up through a history of colonialism and must be  deeply committed to this responsibility.”

Looking ahead to a prospective papal visit, he said, “As we prepare for the Holy Father’s eventual pilgrimage to Canada, the relationships forged this week and the lessons learned from Indigenous delegates will continue to guide and inspire us.”

The delegation follows more than three years of dialogue between Canada’s Catholic Bishops and Indigenous partners, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The CCCB notes in its statement that their Conference has made a $30 million pledge “towards healing and reconciliation initiatives, a commitment to ensure residential school documents are made available to survivors, and ongoing work to provide education for our clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality.”

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01 April 2022, 16:18