December 7, 2022

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The Pope in Canada has three messages for the Church of tomorrow

Wednesday 20 July 2022 – 18:17

The Pope in Canada has three messages for the Church of tomorrow

Francis from 24 to 30 July among the tribal people of the North

Vatican City, July 20 (askanews) – With his trip to Canada’s deep north, next July 24 to 30, Pope Francis will not only return a visit to him by the country’s indigenous people in Rome last spring to condemn the ‘culture’. The decades of genocide they endured completed the ‘mica culpa’ on behalf of the Catholic Church, but it sent a message far beyond Canadian borders about what the Church should look like in the future.

His 37th international trip is drawing particular attention because the Argentinian pontiff has had increasing difficulty walking in recent months and has postponed a planned trip to Congo and the Democratic Republic of South Sudan in early July. Other trips, in particular, if they are connected to the Russian war in Ukraine – the Kiev hypothesis, the Kazakhstan project – are already on the horizon, however, the 86-year-old Francis will no longer move as before.


What makes the determination desired by Jorge Mario Bergoglio to confirm this demanding visit to the Arctic Circle, not without instilling some fear in the entourage, is even more remarkable. In short, an inevitable trip: because the Pope, especially attracted by the representatives of the First Nations, the Inuit and the Métis, first individually and then all together, took place in late March and early April in ‘residential schools’ managed by Canadian state churches, including the Catholic Church, from the damage caused in this part of the world. From stories of physical and sexual abuse to old people’s stories by European cultural colonization. True, but in Canada Bergoglio sees an opportunity to develop and take root at least three ideas that are close to his heart and that he considers important to Catholicism in the coming years.

Demands for forgiveness for the abuses committed by the ‘conquerors’ were, of course, not an invention of Jorge Mario Bergoglio. Father Federico Lombardi on Catholic Civilization recalls Pope Paul III’s 1537 bull ‘Sublimis Deus’ warning that the ‘Indians’ ‘discovered by the Christians’ should in no way lose their freedom and their possessions. , even if they do not have faith in Jesus Christ. In recent times, John Paul II has visited the country three times and apologized to the aboriginal people in order to control himself in Canada. Benedict XVI did the same when he received them at the Vatican. However, criticism of the Church continued. Historical truth has run its course: a ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ commission set up by the Canadian government in 2015 recommended that the Pope travel to Canada to apologise. Other details emerged, such as the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, not infrequently gruesome: the Canadian government underpaid these colleges and children who lived in poor health conditions, when they died, were buried nearby rather than being returned to their families to save money. The events affected world public opinion and prompted the Canadian Church to be clearer than it had been in its condemnation.


The first Latin American pontiff in history, then, could intensify the debate. A successor to the Jesuit missionaries, Bergoglio always paid close attention to the historical knot of colonialism and the interplay between evangelization and the dispossession of original cultures. During his trip to Bolivia in 2015, he said, ‘I apologize not only for the crimes of the Church, but also for the crimes against the indigenous people. I ask you to remember the thousands of priests and bishops who fiercely resisted the logic of the sword with the power of the cross so that forgiveness would be justified. There was sin, there was sin, there was plenty, but we didn’t ask for forgiveness, for this we ask for forgiveness, I ask for forgiveness, but there, where there was sin, where sin abounded, grace abounded even more. Through these men who defended the justice of the original people. In 2019, he wanted a synodal assembly on the Amazon to take place in Rome, which he himself pre-opened in Porto Maldonado, which explored the issue of the complex relationship between evangelization and colonialism.

However, a long-term commitment – ​​and this is the first point that can be seen in the Canadian journey – risks being limited to Latin America. The Argentine Pope is concerned about this issue because he comes from the only place in the world where this issue has existed. On the contrary, the connection between colonialism and the misinterpreted reading of the Gospel, the ‘doctrine of discovery’ blessed by the Holy Roman Church, occurred in many other places, and in today’s world, may even be disguised by missionaries. Catholics and other Christian denominations. The trip to Canada will give the pope an opportunity to expand the question beyond Latin America, and beyond the Spanish-speaking world. Although he will deliver speeches in Spanish — which he swears will come through loud and clear in neighboring Central and South America — the message will be translated into English and French so it can reach neighboring America as well. In remote Australia, many African countries and old Europe.


A message – and this is the second point – that inextricably links cultural diversity and concern for the ‘common home’. The Pope of Laudato si’ and Fratelli all said it and reiterated it, but now he will repeat it in clear letters from the G7 countries that are always sensitive to the environmental issue. As Canadian Jesuit Gilles Mongeau explained to the French press agency I. Media, ‘We recognize that the first defenders of this land are the indigenous peoples. We benefited from it but it was not properly distributed to the immigrants. They occupied it. One of the significant differences between European culture and indigenous culture is the relationship with the land. Europeans own the land, they buy and sell it. They have a right to it. Tribal people think of themselves as stewards of the land. They see it as a gift and share it. Not leaving the theme of the environment to others, it is a concept that the Church knows how to develop and develop for herself, acting as a catalyst for a commitment to solving an ever-existential problem for humanity today and tomorrow.

From Canada, Francis will have the opportunity to show once again, but from a new angle, a face of the Catholic Church far from a concept, focused only on liturgy and canon law, for men of good will, together with women, for the common good. It is a way of underscoring the very real meaning of the gospel. Because, as he said in Bolivia, Francis believes that already in 1500, even today, even within the Church, ideas about what it means to take the ‘Good News’ to the world are different and indeed conflicting: some who say it is imposed by the ‘logic of the sword’, those who say it is imposed by the ‘power of the cross’. followers. To clarify it better, to distinguish and choose, it is necessary to pass from the historical fact. Painless truth. As Father Lombardi noted, at the end of his essay recalling the dramatic events of history, ‘we suffered greatly, firstly the indigenous people and many residential school students, who suffered great injustices and severe abuses, but – in the background – with the Gospel and their true intention to serve the indigenous people. Many who expended most of their strength. Now they are frustrated by more harsh criticism, which includes generalizations that are not correct. We think – writes the Jesuit – that this is a regrettable price, not worthless, to be paid in the Church’s path of purification. We hope that this will result in a deeper, more productive and renewed encounter with Indigenous peoples and the entire Canadian community – truly reconciled –

Words that explain why Pope Francis has pitched his next visit to Canada as a ‘false pilgrimage’ dedicated to Canadians but capable of speaking beyond the country’s borders.

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