OTTAWA, Ontario (CNS) — Whether Pope Francis comes to Canada or not, indigenous relations remain a top priority for Canada’s bishops, said the newly elected president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Lonueuil, Quebec, said a possible papal visit was not a major topic at the bishops’ plenary gathering Sept. 25-29, but reconciliation with indigenous people remains high on the conference’s agenda.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission helped the bishops to “better discover the sufferings of First Nations people,” through the residential schools, Bishop Gendron said.
The commission, which ended its work in 2015, detailed the treatment of aboriginal children in residential schools supported by the Canadian government but administered by religious organizations, including the Catholic Church.
Although the commission had several calls to action, including a demand the pope come to Canada to apologize on Canadian soil for the schools, Bishop Gendron said the bishops’ response “is not a response to the TRC,” and “not a response to the politicians,” but “our response comes from the Gospel, and comes from our mission.”
That represents a change, he explained, saying, “The Spirit has done great things among us and is helping us. We were discussing so many things not according to the Gospel and mission as bishops.”
But now the focus has shifted to reconciliation with an awareness of what First Nations people “have suffered and are suffering,” he said.
As for a possible visit by the pope, Bishop Gendron said the bishops are in a process of “accompaniment and discernment,” to find out what the “Spirit is asking of us at this moment” from a “pastoral point of view.”
Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, who was the most outspoken in favor of a papal visit among the western Canadian bishops when they made their ad limina visits to Rome last spring, said he is pleased with the direction the bishops’ conference is taking.
“I think the conference is engaging as deeply as ever in its history with indigenous relations. It’s a priority. It occupies our time and energy and we’re making steps together,” he said.
“I don’t know that I could have said that a year ago,” he added.
While indigenous relations and reconciliation remain major priorities for the bishops “the part Pope Francis will play on this has to unfold on the Holy See side of things and unfold in discussions over time,” Archbishop Bolen said. “Our focus isn’t reduced to the role of Pope Francis.”
Instead, the CCCB is “investing, time, energy, commitment” and resources to reconciliation, and it is yet to be determined exactly “what shape that takes,” he said.
One area the Canadian bishops are focusing on is supporting the six dioceses and archdioceses of Canada’s North: Whitehorse, Yukon Territory; Mackenzie — Fort Smith, Northwest Territories; Churchill – Hudson Bay, Manitoba; Moosonee, Ontario; Grouard — McLennan, Alberta; and Keewatin – Le Pas, Manitoba. They once were missionary dioceses under the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, but are now normal dioceses.
“We are building relationships with these northern dioceses and their peoples on a level that has never happened before and that’s a beautiful thing,” Archbishop Bolen said. “In my diocese and every diocese, good discussions are going on on what it means to be in relationship, or be a twin with a diocese or part of a diocese. There’s some excitement about this. It’s not seen as a burden, but it’s about a relationship we didn’t have or only had in a minimal way.”
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103