Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission report was released in 2015, and requested an apology from the pope for the abuses it uncovered within one year of its release. In March 2022, Pope Francis met with representatives of the Métis and Inuit indigenous peoples, and with the Canadian Catholic bishops, both at the Vatican, and apologized to them privately.
Chief Wilton Littlechild, a prominent Canadian indigenous leader and advocate who was at the Vatican meeting, opened the ceremony in Maskwacis by welcoming Pope Francis to his homeland.
“Your Holiness, you have come to our land in response to our invitation, and as you
promised. You have said that you come as a pilgrim, seeking to walk together with us on the pathway of truth, justice, healing, reconciliation, and hope. We gladly welcome you to join us on this journey,” Littlechild said.
“As you acknowledged in your address to us in Rome, we Indigenous Peoples strive always to consider the impact of present events and deliberations on future generations. In that spirit, we sincerely hope that our encounter this morning, and the words you share with us, will echo with true healing and real hope throughout many generations to come.”
The presentation at Maskwacis included a procession with a large red banner, bearing the names of over 4,000 children who died at the residential schools. The creation of the banner was the first national, public commemoration to record the names of so many of the children who died at all the residential schools across Canada, according to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.
The pope praised the indigenous community’s sense of community and tradition, passing on a “treasury of sound customs and teachings,” following “ways of life that respect the earth which you received as a legacy from past generations and are keeping for those yet to come.”
“I trust and pray that Christians and civil society in this land may grow in the ability to accept and respect the identity and the experience of the indigenous peoples. It is my hope that concrete ways can be found to make those peoples better known and esteemed, so that all may learn to walk together. For my part, I will continue to encourage the efforts of all Catholics to support the indigenous peoples,” Pope Francis continued.
“In the face of evil, we pray to the Lord of goodness; in the face of death, we pray to the God of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ took a grave, which seemed the burial place of every hope and dream, leaving behind only sorrow, pain and resignation, and made it a place of rebirth and resurrection, the beginning of a history of new life and universal reconciliation. Our own efforts are not enough to achieve healing and reconciliation: we need God’s grace. We need the quiet and powerful wisdom of the Spirit, the tender love of the Comforter. May he bring to fulfillment the deepest expectations of our hearts. May he guide our steps and enable us to advance together on our journey.”
Following a flight from Rome, the pope was greeted at Edmonton International Airport by Trudeau and other dignitaries July 24. On July 26, the feast of St. Anne, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. Later that day, he will participate in a pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne, a site which plays host annually to thousands of pilgrims, billing itself as the largest annual Catholic gathering in western Canada. The pope will also celebrate a Liturgy of the Word at the site.
EWTN will continue to provide live coverage of the papal trip, which can be found through the network’s program schedule.
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Jonah McKeown is a staff writer and podcast producer for Catholic News Agency. He holds a Master’s Degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and has worked as a writer, as a producer for public radio, and as a videographer. He is based in St. Louis.