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Pope Francis to visit Indigenous people in Canada, offer apology

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The Holy Father is expected to offer apologies and a path forward with Indigenous peoples.

Pope Francis will visit Canada from July 24-30, 2022. He will visit with the Indigenous people there and offer an apology for their treatment at the hands of the Church in previous decades. He will also make stops in Edmonton and Iqaluit. 

Indigenous musicians play for Pope Francis. The Holy Father is going to Canada to offer an apology for Church behavior towards the Indigenous people.

Indigenous musicians play for Pope Francis. The Holy Father is going to Canada to offer an apology for Church behavior towards the Indigenous people.

Highlights

By Marshall Connolly (Catholic Online)
7/21/2022 (2 months ago)

Published in Americas

Keywords: Pope Francis, Canada, Indigenous, apology, visit, residential, schools

LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - For thousands of years, the Indigenous people of Canada and the Americas lived without knowledge of Europe, Asia or Africa, their peoples or cultures. These many nations of people developed sophisticated civilizations. They developed farming, built cities larger than many in Europe, kept those cities much cleaner and more civilized, and invented sophisticated technologies. From keeping warm in the northern tundra, to keeping cool in the American Southwest, the Indigenous people were in many ways more advanced than the European colonizers who arrived after 1492 AD. 

The colonizers arrived with steel and gunpowder. The Indigenous people did not have such weapons, but they possessed courage, valor, and weapons that in the right circumstances were equally formidable. Unfortunately, the European invaders also brought waves of contagious, deadly diseases to which the Indigenous people had no resistance. In a century, tens of millions perished just from disease. So many people died that forests reclaimed farmland across two continents. So many trees grew back, they took substantial quantities of CO2 out of the atmosphere. This literally caused the "Little Ice Age," a period of global cooling that persisted until 1850. 

Along with their diseases and weapons, the colonizers also brought their religion. Foremost among them was Catholicism. 

Hundreds of missionary priests made permanent pilgrimages to the Americas to share their faith with the Indigenous people and to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Typically, these were well-intentioned efforts, yet they also contributed to the destruction of Indigenous cultures. 

In places like California, the missions saved tens of thousands of Indigenous people from certain genocide. But the price extracted for survival was great. Indigenous people there lost much of their native culture in the exchange. 

Across the centuries, the Church served to make peace between Indigenous people and the European colonizers who were insatiable and unstoppable. On many occasions, the Church took the side of these colonizers and failed to serve the Indigenous people justly. These failures were acute in some cases. In fact, they were outright deadly and sinful. 

One shocking example of this are the Canadian residential schools run by clerical authorities at least until the 1990s. In these schools, Indigenous children were taken from their parents and raised as Catholics in such a way as to assimilate them into Canadian culture. This was a form of genocidal behavior, intended to erase native culture. And it was wrong. 

It gets worse. Church officials, entrusted with the care of thousands of children, committed atrocities from abuse to murder, which were then systematically covered up. The guilty escaped prosecution. 

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There is no defense for this activity. The guilty knew they were doing wrong then, which is why they covered up their evil, even at a time when they were unlikely to be prosecuted. The Church owes a deep apology to the Indigenous people of the Americas for its role in destroying their culture. 

The Church is a holy institution, but it is filled with sinful people. No human person is truly impeccable. Given our fallen nature, impeccability is also an unreasonable standard. However, to refrain from abuse, murder, and genocide, these are reasonable expectations, even of an atheist. They are absolutely reasonable expectations of the faithful. And those expectations were failed. There are no excuses to be offered. 

Pope Francis will meet primarily with the Indigenous people during his visit. He will meet only once with civil authorities and diplomats. The visit isn't about politics, it's about justice. 

Sadly, there are no amends that can be made to satisfy penance. This is where we must ask Jesus Christ to facilitate healing. Certainly, we can and must offer all apologies and follow our prayers with actions to protect Indigenous people, their cultures, and make amends. The Holy Father will do so on behalf of the entire Church. This is an important first step toward reconciliation. 

We pray for Indigenous people worldwide, who have been the subject of colonization and genocide. We pray for forgiveness. We pray for justice. We pray that such behavior is no more. And we pledge to act in accord with the Gospel, which is not about politics or conquest, but about service and love. 

Amen.

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