What are the challenges of Pope Francis’ trip to Canada?

To those who had been saying for weeks that he wasn’t “not able” to travel, he addresses a clear answer. By flying to Canada on Sunday July 24, François shows that he has no intention of canceling his travels despite his knee pain and his difficulty walking.

But that is not the only reason why the Pope is very keen on this six-day trip. Far from there. Because if he judges the move “important”According to one of his collaborators, he is preparing to perform a historic and long-awaited gesture in Canada: to ask for forgiveness for the role played by the Catholic Church in the operation of residential schools for natives between 1830 and 1996.

Iqaluit, Maskwacis and Lac Sainte-Anne, highly symbolic places

A total of 150,000 children passed through these 132 schools run by the churches, at the request of the Canadian federal government, which funded them and whose goal was to assimilate the Aboriginal communities into the Canadian nation. At least 5,300 sexual aggressors ruled there, and between 3,500 and 10,000 residents perished in these overcrowded and poorly ventilated places where, as the survivors of these schools summarize today, “kill the indian in the child”.

It is this terrible story that will bring Francis to North America to obtain one “penitential pilgrimage”, as he himself described it on Sunday 17 July. The Canadian organizers are talking about one pilgrimage to healing, reconciliation and hope”. During his trip, Pope Francis will visit Edmonton and Quebec before spending a few hours in Iqaluit, a town in the Canadian far north where 3,900 of the 8,000 inhabitants are Inuit.

During his journey, François will visit very symbolic places, such as Lac Sainte-Anne, where many natives go on pilgrimage every year, or the cemetery of a reserve where natives live, in Maskwacis. During the nine speeches planned during the trip, all of which will be delivered in Spanish and translated into English and French, Francis will also have the opportunity to address one of the themes with which he is familiar: ideological colonization.

“Your identity and your culture have been wounded, many families have been separated, many young people have become victims of this act (…) supported by the idea that progress goes through ideological colonization, according to programs studied in detail instead of respecting people’s lives”, he told the representatives of the natives on 1eh April in the Vatican.

By early April, François had actually been receiving Canadian natives for a long time. It was before them that he had uttered his apologies for the first time, emphasizing his “scandal”her “pain” and His “shame”. Three words that should also come regularly throughout the trip, during which the request for the return to Canada of indigenous objects from the Vatican Museum could be processed.

The Pope’s visit completes a cycle of apologies presented by the Catholic Church that began in 1991 with a declaration by the Oblate Conference of Canada. Then came, over the years, the apologies of the religious congregations involved in the residential schools, Jesuits from English Canada, missionaries and bishops in the country.

Benedict XVI’s inadequate words

In 2009, after a meeting organized in the Vatican with survivors of private schools, Benedict XVI also got “expressed sorrow at the anguish caused to certain members by the deplorable conduct of the Church” at boarding schools. But the words were deemed insufficient.

Of the 94 recommendations in the report of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, published in 2015, of which only four relate to the churches, the 58e specifically mentions the Pope: “We call on the Pope to apologize on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church to the survivors, their families and affected communities for the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse suffered by First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in schools . of the Catholic Church.”

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