Meeting with the Pope is a “step” toward reconciliation.

By: Naijamedialog / March 31st, 2022 / 117 views
meeting with pope
Métis delegates gather in St Peter’s Square after a private meeting Monday with Pope Francis

There is still no official apology from the Catholic Church for its role in the management of Canada’s residential school system, according to a group of indigenous Canadians visiting the Vatican this week.

Survivors of the schools and their descendants will speak directly to Pope Francis for the first time during his visit, which was temporarily postponed because to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, the pontiff announced that he will visit Canada to speak with indigenous communities and lend his support to continuing reconciliation initiatives, which include healing the connection between indigenous people, non-indigenous people, and the government.

In order for the schools to be established and operated, Christian churches were required. The schools were established as part of a government program at the time that sought to assimilate indigenous students while simultaneously destroying indigenous traditions and languages.

Residential schools were operated primarily by the Roman Catholic Church, which was responsible for up to 70% of all residential schools.

Indigenous communities have lobbied for years for an official papal apology on behalf of the church to survivors and their communities, and this week’s trip to Rome is the culmination of their efforts. The trip comes at a time when Canada is facing a national reckoning over the legacy of the residential school system.

The Holy Father will address the entire delegation on Friday, following separate private sessions with representatives from the delegation’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities earlier in the week.

Canada’s national reckoning is rooted in the child graveyards.
One of the most important reports ever released by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) highlighted widespread failings in assuring the care and safety of students at the schools, and it concluded that the system amounted to “cultural genocide.”

Residential schools, which were established more than a century ago, separated more than 150,000 indigenous children, many of whom were taken away from their families and communities. Many indigenous children were subjected to physical, mental, and emotional abuse, and a TRC investigation discovered that thousands of indigenous children who were transported to residential schools never returned home.

Since last summer, hundreds of unmarked graves, the majority of which are believed to be those of former pupils, have been uncovered at old school locations all around the country, according to the National Cemetery Survey.

‘An admission of fault’ is a legal term.
The journey was organized by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has expressed regret for the suffering that occurred at residential schools across the country.

It has been more than 20 years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued one of its most important “calls to action” for reconciliation: the Pope should express regret to survivors and their families for the harm they suffered while attending Catholic-run institutions.

Indigenous delegations attempted to lobby both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, but were unsuccessful. In 2009, the latter released a statement of remorse, but did not admit any wrongdoing on the part of the church.

First Nations delegation leader Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine describes this follow-up visit as “another opportunity to assist in the healing of a trauma that has been passed down through generations.”

“We’ve been wronged, and our people have constantly advocated and demanded that we need to remedy the injustice,” he said in an interview before leaving on the journey.

“A papal apology is obviously necessary in order to further the healing process and go forward.”

In a statement issued from Rome on Thursday, former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine stated that his meeting with Pope Francis had left him with “a genuine sense of optimism.”

“This is an extremely significant statement because we heard the Holy Father declare to us very clearly, “The Church is with you.” Because the very next thing we will hear will be the words ‘I’m sorry’ – I am absolutely certain of this.”

Ten Métis and eight Inuit delegates exited from their hour-long papal audiences on Monday, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to engage in a meaningful discourse with the Pope.

Delegate Mitch Case stated that survivors had shared “painful realities” about their ordeal and the unfinished business that still awaited resolution.

According to him, “residential schools were established in order to remove us from the land so that Canada could claim everything.” Then we get to the present day, a century and a half later, and there is still no method for anyone to express regret.

As a symbol of “the willingness of the Métis people to forgive if there is meaningful action from the church,” Mr Case presented the pontiff with a pair of red-beaded moccasins. The Inuit presented the pontiff with a sealskin stole, a sealskin rosary case, and two carvings, all made by Inuit carvers. Each delegate is reportedly believed to have gotten a gift from the Holy Father as a thank you for their efforts.

“The discussions were marked by the Pope’s determination to listen to and create space for the sad accounts conveyed by the survivors,” according to a Vatican readout of the proceedings.

In St. Peter’s Square, Angie Crerar, a Métis elder and survivor from Alberta, told reporters that Francis was “very nice” and that their hug had removed decades of grief.

In her words, “Today was one of the most lovely days I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.” “I couldn’t understand him, but his smile and body language made me feel like I was falling in love with this man.”

In her community, Inuit elder Martha Greig, a boarding school survivor from Quebec, says that not everyone wants to seek the delayed apology, but that it is nonetheless vital.

For her, there has to be a moment of forgiveness from both parties, because “if you don’t forgive, it eats away at you.”

This is a’stepping stone in the healing process.’
However, for many of the delegates, an apology alone is not sufficient compensation.

“The process of reconciliation did not begin with a meeting with Pope Francis, and it will not come to an end here. There are many more stepping stones to be taken on that trip “Cassidy Caron, President of the Métis National Council, who is leading the Métis delegation, expressed his views.

Ms Caron was encouraged by Monday’s discussion, but she believes that the church must take more real action than simply apologizing to the community.

meeting with pope

She is advocating for access to the church’s residential school records so that “we can piece together our history in a more meaningful way,” as well as for the repatriation of cultural artifacts that have been acquired by the church in the course of its mission.

Additionally, the delegates are likely to press the Pope on issues such as financial compensation and the church’s legacy of sexual abuse at religious boarding schools.

Natan Obed, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the leader of the Inuit delegation, said he had pressed the Holy Father to personally intervene in the case of Father Johannes Rivoire, a former Nunavut priest accused of multiple sex abuses in the 1960s who is now living in France. Father Johannes Rivoire is a former Nunavut priest accused of multiple sex abuses in the 1960s who is now living in France.

Mr Obed claims to have warned the Pope that alleged abusers such as Father Rivoire must be brought to justice in some form or another if they are still living.

Last but not least, the group, which is purposefully varied in terms of age and leadership, seeks to make Pope Francis aware of what they perceive to be the spiritual split that has resulted from historical injustice.

As Cree Nation Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty explained, “It’s one thing to express regret, but we’re also sending a message of diplomacy to the Catholic Church, informing them that there is a great deal of follow-up work to be done beyond an apology.”

In his role as spiritual leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis “does aim to set the tone for the future.”

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