The reaction to the reports helped inspire a wave of vandalism and arson against Catholic churches, including some churches on indigenous land which still serve indigenous Catholics. The attacks drew condemnation from indigenous leaders. Canada’s national statistical office, Canada Statistics, reported a 260% spike in anti-Catholic hate crimes in 2021.
Catholic outreach efforts continue.
The Canadian bishops’ meeting pledged continued support for Catholic institutions, seminaries, and religious communities that foster a greater understanding of indigenous culture, language and spiritual traditions and values. They hoped that this support would lead to more direct encounters with indigenous communities and help non-indigenous clergy and laity hear indigenous perspectives, “with attention to the issues of colonization and residential schools.”
The bishops voiced recognition for “the contribution of Indigenous culture and wisdom to our future life in Canada.” They will stand in solidarity with indigenous peoples in “their stewardship of the land and the goods of Creation, the gifts of the Creator.” They will work with local community leaders to support the spiritual well-being of young people and to address social challenges like poverty, suicide, violence, and incarceration.
They reiterated support for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, which accepts donations from 73 Catholic dioceses across Canada to support reconciliation initiatives. The fund has raised $5.5 million and is “on track” to exceed its $30 million goal over five years.
The bishops said they would continue dialogue with the Vatican on issues indigenous delegates and representatives have identified. They are actively working with the Vatican to issue a new statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery,” principles of sovereignty and conquest found in some papal documents dating to the expeditions of European exploration in the 15th century, especially disputes between Spain and Portugal.
The bishops’ conference website provides documents on this subject, including the April 27, 2010 remarks of Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission to the United Nations.
Migliore said that the documents supposedly behind the “Doctrine of Discovery” were rendered irrelevant by successive documents or changing circumstances only a few years after they were issued. He emphasized papal teaching in support of indigenous people, including the 1537 papal bull Sublimis Deus.
“Canada’s Bishops continue to reject and resist ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest way possible,” the bishops’ conference said Sept. 29. They pledged continued support for the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
The gathering was the first in-person plenary meeting since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Bishop Poisson, in his report to the bishops, discussed ongoing child abuse prevention efforts and the Synod on Synodality. He also noted that the new French-language version of the Roman Missal was implemented across the country. The bishops’ new National Program for Priestly Formation has been published and implemented. His report anticipated new resources to help dioceses form lay ministers of catechist, lector, and acolyte in keeping with Pope Francis’ apostolic letters.
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