Pope arrives in Canada on penitential trip


Pope Francis has arrived in Canada on what he calls a “penitential” trip. The Vatican says the trip’s theme is “walking together”.

Francis hopes to reconcile with Canada’s indigenous people for the abuse indigenous children suffered at mostly church-run residential schools.

Hundreds of possible grave sites have been found at the schools.

Catholic missionaries are among those responsible for these abuses.

Compensation is sought. So is the return of indigenous artefacts. Many want school records released and are asking for support to extradite accused abusers.

A 15th-century papal edict justifying their dispossession by colonialists must also be rescinded, indigenous people say.

Francis told reporters accompanying him on the plane that his six-day visit must be handled with care.

His trip follows his April 1 apology from the Vatican for the trauma Canada’s indigenous peoples have suffered. He admitted these traumas occurred as a result of a church-enforced policy to eliminate their culture and assimilate them into a Canadian, Christian society.

While his April 1 apology was acknowledged, many called for him to apologise on Canadian soil.

Between 1881 and 1996 more than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools.

Many were starved, beaten and sexually abused in a system Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide”.

A top papal adviser says early in his papacy Francis had said no single culture can claim a hold on Christianity.

The Church cannot demand people on other continents to imitate the European way of expressing the faith, he stressed at the time.

Although it’s not yet known if Francis intends to apologise on this trip, Chief Vernon Saddleback of Samson Cree Nation says it would be well received.

“For him to come out here to do it in person — I can’t say enough how important that is because that’s where healing begins, when you start to own up to actions.

“When you own up to actions you can start the process of walking towards forgiveness.”

The penitential trip won’t be easy for the 85-year-old Francis or for residential school survivors and their families.

“It is an understatement to say there are mixed emotions,” said Chief Desmond Bull of the Louis Bull Tribe.

Non-indigenous Canadians are also approving of Francis’s visit.

“It’s really important that he’s coming over here for healing and reconciliation and hope,” says one.

Another, who is not a Catholic, says the Pope’s trip is an important one.

“I think that it’s needed.

“I think coming from a top level like that means a lot to the indigenous people, really.”



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