This month, Canada hosts a historic moment.
Pope Francis’ pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation marks the dawn of a new day in the relationship between the Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the Catholic Church. But it is even bigger than that. It is an opportunity for all peoples living in Canadian territory to choose the path of compassion, listening, truth, justice, and healing. It is a new springtime of being reconciled with one another in order to walk forward together.
Certainly, the Catholic Church has much to ask forgiveness for. Administering schools that sought to eliminate Indigenous languages, cultures, and spirituality. Separating children from their parents, and parents from their children. Giving rise to mistreatment, abuse, and violence. As Pope Francis said when meeting with Indigenous delegations earlier this spring
, the beautiful tree of their culture, beliefs, and customs was tragically uprooted
The Catholic Church is not alone in its burden of responsibility. As we know, fellow Christian churches also administered residential schools. They were carrying out a government policy that began as early as the 1830s, ultimately enforced by police officers. The blood is on the hands of Canadian society, the Catholic Church in Canada included. As part of this country, we not only share in the collective responsibility for the past. Most of all, we share in the hope, promise, and call of rebuilding the future.
Now is the opportunity for each one of us to do two things.
First, to take part in this historic pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation between Pope Francis and the Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
See if you can attend. Watch it on TV. Pray for and with the victims of residential schools, Indigenous families and communities, the Holy Father, and the Bishops of Canada.
Next, each one of us can look in the mirror and honestly ask ourselves: What can I do? What is my part to play in the path ahead?
Do I know Indigenous people and the gifts they have to share? Have I listened to their stories
? Do I know this difficult chapter of Canadian history
? Do I feel myself concerned? How can I get involved in what may very well be the most significant issue of our generation for Canada?
As Pope Francis has pointed out, we have much to learn from our Indigenous brothers and sisters
. Caring for the earth as a gift from heaven, rather than a resource to be exploited. Seeing life as a great web of relationships, with our Creator, with our ancestors and relatives, with the entire family of humanity, and with all species. Living out a deep spirituality, which expresses itself in rich forms of art, dance, and celebration. What can we do to walk together, to work together, to step forward together, here and now?
Our future depends on it.
Julian would be happy to hear from you, with any questions, insights, or suggestions you may have regarding this blog series. He can be reached at [email protected].