As part of the “Walking Together” penitential pilgrimage, Pope Francis met with Residential School Survivors from Eastern Canada on July 29, 2022.
Newsroom (29/07/2022 11:27 AM Gaudium Press) This morning, after a private meeting with members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Canada, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, had a private meeting with Residential School Survivors from Eastern Canada. As a Jesuit priest, on most travels abroad, the Holy Father makes time to meet with members of his religious order, a sign of friendship, community and prayerful support. The meeting was at the residence of the Cardinal in Quebec.
The Holy Father’s meeting was with First Nations survivors of Indian Residential Schools. It included 22 delegates representing the following regions and nations: Mi’kmaq Nation, Algonquin Nation, Mohawk Nation, Cree Nation, Innu Nation, Atikamekw Nation, Malecite Nation, Abenaki Nation, Naskapi Nation, Anishinabek Nation, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and Wolastoqey Nation. These delegates were seated in the front two rows. All the cardinals and bishops were also travelling with the Pope on his penitential pilgrimage. These were sitting in the rows behind the indigenous delegates.
The Pope spoke in Spanish, then repeated in French after each paragraph. Cameras/media left the room after the speech to allow for a private exchange between delegates and the Holy Father. Some indigenous members exchanged gifts with the Pope and had him bless religious articles for them.
Summary of the Pope’s Speech
“I bear in my heart the incomparable treasure of all those individuals and peoples who have left a mark on me; the faces, smiles and messages that remain with me; the unforgettable stories and natural beauties; the sounds, colors and emotions that touched me deeply.”
Pope Francis recalled that he came to Canada as a pilgrim and as “a friend in order to meet you and to see, hear, learn, and appreciate how the indigenous peoples of this country live.”
“I have come as a brother, to discover firsthand the good and bad fruit borne by members of the local Catholic family in the course of the years,” he said. “I have come in a spirit of penance, to express my heartfelt pain at the wrong inflicted on you by not a few Catholics who supported oppressive and unjust policies in your regard.” The Pope expressed his hopes that his visit may advance the “search for truth” to help in healing and reconciliation while sowing “seeds of hope” for future generations. Pope Francis said he is returning to Rome “greatly enriched” and has felt particularly moved by the “indigenous realities of these lands.”
The celebration of the feast of St. Anne was a particular highlight, said the Pope, since it offered a reminder to conserve the bond between young and old and “to maintain a healthy and harmonious relationship with all of Creation.”
St. Anne, he said, recalls the gifts of tenderness and protection; the Virgin Mary points to our pilgrim path to heaven; and St. Kateri offers an example of exemplary devotion to prayer and work, as well as the “ability to endure many trials with patience and meekness.”
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged the people of Canada to follow the dreams God has planted in their hearts with “meekness and determination” in the footsteps of these holy women.
“May they bless the journey we now share,” he prayed, “and intercede for us and for this great work of healing and reconciliation that is so pleasing to God.”
– Raju Hasmukh