by Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ
April 3, 2019 — Only one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action is directed exclusively to the Catholic Church. Call 58 asks the Pope to come to Canada and apologize “…to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”
Motion 325 also (to which Senator Murray Sinclair, former Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, responded) invokes commitments made under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, whose implementation began in 2007 and continues today. The heart of the motion however, and the hope of many, many Indigenous Catholics, is the request that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops invite the Pope to come for this act of reconciliation. Prime Minister Trudeau and others have already done so. But the Pope, who values collaboration, will not come unless the bishops also invite him.
Many Catholic dioceses and religious orders have already apologized for their roles in residential schools. The Oblates of Mary Immaculate did so first, in 1991. But no religious order or diocese can speak for the others or for the whole Church in Canada. The Pope can.
Why come here to do it? Popes have already expressed regret or apology to Indigenous Peoples for the damaging connections between evangelization and colonization. Pope Francis did so in Bolivia in 2015. But no one likes being lumped with other groups in some homogenizing global category. The experience of Indigenous Peoples in Canada is distinctive --for example, they are not conquered peoples but Treaty Peoples. Finally, as we know from personal experiences, presence really helps reconciliation. In this case, not only presence and good words, but also participating in Indigenous ceremony, as Pope St. John Paul II did in Midland in 1984, would really strengthen the communion.
So let us prepare our own reconciliations so the Pope can build on them!
You can read the full text of Sen. Murray Sinclair's response to motion 325 by clicking here.