Moving towards ‘an ever more healthy and renewed future’

Pope Francis blesses the waters of Lac Ste Anne on Tuesday night, and brings a message of peace and healing to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.

By Christopher Wells

The beautiful sunny weather at Lac Ste Anne Tuesday evening matched the atmosphere of the Pope’s visit, as thousands of indigenous people joined the Holy Father for the Liturgy of the Word.

The final event on the first leg of the Pope’s penitential pilgrimage to Canada proved a notable contrast to the first, in Maskwacis, where overcast skies proved a fitting setting for the Pope’s apology to indigenous peoples for the wounds caused by the institution of the Church and many of its people.

Pope Francis made his way to the lakeshore on his arrival at the Shrine of St Anne, after meeting with indigenous chiefs and members of the faithful. The Holy Father was brought in his wheelchair to the edge of the water, where he paused briefly in prayer, before blessing the four cardinal points of the compass – concluding facing north, towards the water, in accordance with the custom of the St Anne pilgrimage.

The Holy Father pronounced the blessing in English, a language understood by most of those present, a significant gesture given the importance of language in the conversation about the Church’s historic actions towards indigenous peoples. Then, taking a bowl of water from the lake – waters renowned for healings – Pope Francis was taken through the crowd, blessing the people as he went.

Arriving at the shrine itself, the Pope was once again greeted with drums, a fact he remarked upon in his homily: “This beating of drums seems to echo the beating of so many hearts: hearts that, over the centuries, have beat near these very waters; hearts of the many pilgrims who walked together to reach this ‘lake of God’.”

The Pope began his homily with a short greeting in the Cree language, a greeting that was received with a warm round of applause. His reflection then focused on the theme of living waters, drawn from the readings.

The theme of healing and reconciliation was very much to the fore in the wake of Pope Francis’ apology on Monday, with many Indigenous people speaking of the need to move forward in the process of reconciliation – while respecting and validating the emotions and feelings of those who feel differently.

The Holy Father echoed those feelings with the prayer that “the Lord might help us move forward in the healing process towards an ever more healthy and renewed future.”

Yet while there has been a great focus on the Pope’s apology and the response to it, these past two days in Edmonton have also been an occasion for a great gathering of thousands of indigenous peoples from countless nations, tribes, and communities, from across Canada and beyond. And it has offered an opportunity to celebrate the language and culture, and resilience of the original inhabitants of this land.

“Dear indigenous brothers and sisters, I have come here as a pilgrim also to say to you how precious you are to me and to the Church.” With the final words of his homily, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to those people, and he shared his hopes that the Church and Indigenous Peoples can continue to walk together, “moving forward in the healing process, towards an ever more healthy and renewed future.”

26 July 2022, 21:06