In a statement published Friday, 29 July, Canada’s Catholic Bishops expressed their gratitude for Pope Francis’ historic visit to their country, which, the statement reads, was the “fulfillment of his promise to manifest by his very presence his closeness to the Indigenous Peoples”, and which “represents a significant milestone on the path of healing and reconciliation”.
The Bishops acknowledged the various times during his Apostolic Journey that the Holy Father gave “a heartfelt and solemn apology to Indigenous Peoples on behalf of the Catholic Church”. They recognised his “admiration for Indigenous culture and spirituality”; and his “profound sadness at the lasting impact of colonization”. They also thanked him for acknowledging “the catastrophic impact of the residential school system” and for asking for “forgiveness for abuses, including sexual abuses, that were committed by members of the Church”.
The Canadian Bishops affirmed their commitment to take on the task the Pope entrusted to them: “to continue to assist survivors and families in healing from the traumas they have suffered. We have heard this call”, they said, “and will be reviewing an updated action plan during our National Plenary Assembly this fall”. Continuing, they expressed their hope “that the relationships forged in this planning process, particularly with Indigenous partners at both the national and local levels, will grow well beyond this visit and serve as the foundation for the work that lies ahead”.
The statement then goes on to list some of the responses to the visit received from Indigenous men and women. These include “calls for greater transparency with the preservation and disclosure of residential school records”; requests “for support to address the issue of Indigenous artifacts housed at the Vatican Museum; a desire to affirm the inherent rights of Indigenous people and to clarify the historical policies and principles often referred to as the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’; an invitation to walk with First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities in addressing systemic injustices which continue today”; and requests “to financially support initiatives that advance healing and reconciliation”.
The Bishops point out that during their 2021 Plenary Assembly, they had “pledged to promote access to records, educate clergy on Indigenous cultures and spirituality, continue dialogue with Indigenous communities and engagement with the Vatican regarding artifacts, and commit $30 million for what would eventually become an Indigenous Reconciliation Fund”.
“Reconciliation”, they continue, “is a journey that involves all of us, and the Holy Father’s presence has been a source of hope and inspiration for Canadians across the country”. They “thank the Survivors for their bravery and openness to be a part of these encounters with the Holy Father and to the Indigenous partners for their assistance in the planning process. We are blessed”, they conclude, “to have been part of this penitential pilgrimage and conclude this week with renewed hope for walking together towards a better future”.