The first challenge the pope cited is to “make Jesus known,” proclaiming him in a similar way to the apostles in the Book of Acts, through “a pastoral creativity capable of reaching people where they are living, finding opportunities for listening, dialogue and encounter.”
The second challenge he offered is “witness.” In this part of his speech, Pope Francis again acknowledged and apologized for the abuses suffered by indigenous students at church-run residential schools in Canada.
“The Gospel is preached effectively when life itself speaks and reveals the freedom that sets others free, the compassion that asks for nothing in return, the mercy that silently speaks of Christ,” Pope Francis said.
“The Church in Canada has set out on a new path, after being hurt and devastated by the evil perpetrated by some of its sons and daughters,” the pope observed.
“I think in particular of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, scandals that require firm action and an irreversible commitment. Together with you, I would like once more to ask forgiveness of all the victims. The pain and the shame we feel must become an occasion for conversion: Never again!” he said.
“And thinking about the process of healing and reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters, never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others,” he vowed.
“Let us recover the zeal of your first Bishop, St. François de Laval, who railed against those who demeaned the indigenous people by inducing them to imbibe strong drink in order then to cheat them,” the pope said. “Let us not allow any ideology to alienate or mislead the customs and ways of life of our peoples, as a means of subduing them or controlling them.”
The third challenge he offered is “fraternity.” The pope encouraged the pastoral men and women to examine how they are doing in terms of building “relationships of fraternity with everyone.”
“Are we brothers, or competitors split into parties? And how about our relationships with those who are not ‘one of our own,’ with those who do not believe, with those who have different traditions and customs? This is the way: to build relationships of fraternity with everyone, with indigenous brothers and sisters, with every sister and brother we meet, because the presence of God is reflected in each of their faces.”
The pope spoke following an introduction and welcome from Raymond Poisson, Bishop of St-Jérôme-Mont-Laurier. The pope received a standing ovation after his homily.
Afterward, the Cardinal Archbishop of Québec, Gérald Lacroix, accompanied the pope to the tomb of St. Francis de Laval, where they prayed silently.
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Continuing what he has called a “penitential pilgrimage” in Canada, Pope Francis is set to fly north on Friday, July 29, to Iqaluit, to meet privately with students of the former residential schools. He will return to Rome the same day, arriving on Saturday, July 30.
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.