Reconciliation | A Renewed Way for the Church

The past year has been a pivotal year for the Catholic Church’s relationship with the Indigenous peoples of Canada. Although our country has a long history of fruitful encounters between different cultures, traditions and forms of spirituality, this relationship has been deeply damaged by the residential school system.

As Church leaders, we have seen a deep sense of anger and an overwhelming desire on the part of the Catholic faithful to better support our Indigenous brothers and sisters. We can humbly be happy with the progress made, but we must be careful not to feel a sense of the work accomplished. The road to reconciliation is long and it will take more than a year, however significant, to travel it.

Milestones in the past year include the delegation of residential school survivors made up of elders, knowledge keepers and youth to Rome and the Vatican. Pope Francis spoke with the members of the delegation for more than four hours, listened to their stories and offered his first apologies.

Consider also the penitential pilgrimage of Pope Francis to Canada, during which the Holy Father was welcomed by indigenous communities and issued an official apology on behalf of the Catholic Church.

If these meetings have accomplished at least one thing, I hope it is to have allowed the truth to be heard. As our Indigenous brothers and sisters have taught us, the path to reconciliation begins with the truth. Similarly, in his speech at Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec, Pope Francis spoke of the importance of witness. The Church must know how to listen, to dialogue and must no longer allow itself to be contaminated by the idea of ​​the superiority of one culture over another.

The courageous stories we have heard this year – whether during the delegation’s trip to Rome, the Pope’s visit to Canada, or our ongoing dialogue with Indigenous communities – can only humble us. We must welcome them and let them inform the path we have yet to travel. With this in mind, the Catholic Bishops of Canada have pledged to provide documents and records that will help residential school survivors and researchers uncover the truth.

Truth also comes with certain expectations. Given the role played by the Church in the residential school system and the suffering of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, we will need to continue to respond to them to the best of our abilities.

As the Holy Father explained during the mass he presided at the basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, we must resist the temptation to flee. We must not believe that our failure in our relations with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters is final and that it is not worth the effort to overcome it.

Just as residential school survivors must come to terms with the suffering inflicted upon them, the Church must reflect on this painful legacy and address the catastrophic impact of the residential school system.

This is why the Catholic Church in Canada is committed, among other things, to sensitizing the clergy and the lay faithful to indigenous cultures and spirituality, to collaborating directly with the Vatican and the Holy Father on the about reconciliation and to implement the $30 million national pledge for healing and reconciliation.

The Catholic Church in Canada must continue on this path. Pope Francis has asked us to do this, in front of the indigenous communities and Canadians, and his words must guide us. I am grateful to the Holy Father for his commitment to reconciliation and believe that all Catholics and Canadians should respond to this call in the years to come.

Reconciliation | A Renewed Way for the Church