Embracing Indigenous Culture in the Liturgy

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Father Cristino Bouvette, who was instrumental in preparing liturgies for Pope Francis’ visit to Canada, describes how he always wanted Church culture and Indigenous culture to work in harmony.

Jul 26, 2022

The Church of the Sacred Heart of the First Peoples has been restored to reflect Aboriginal culture


By Francesca Merlo
As Pope Francis begins his apostolic journey to Canada, the teams behind the scenes have spent months studying and preparing everything to perfection.

Liturgies are fundamental to any papal journey, which for this particular “penitential pilgrimage” was designed to aid in the process of reconciliation and healing for and with the country’s indigenous peoples.

It is for this reason that Father Cristino Bouvette has been instrumental in preparing the liturgies, which will accompany the people of Canada and those who will follow around the world, as the Pope travels to his three Canadian destinations from 24 to July 29.

Church and culture
As an indigenous Catholic priest, Father Bouvette describes how he was always deeply moved growing up, “to see the rich tradition that is part of our cultural expression.”

Speaking to Christopher Wells of Vatican News, he spoke of the harmony between the tradition of the Church and the tradition of this culture.

“I always hoped there would be a way to make the two coexist harmoniously,” he said.

Father Bouvette noted that “the finest elements of both, wherever they are, are complementary” and recalling that his first parish assignment was on a native reservation, he had the opportunity to “really try to see how I can make it work and allow the richness of our Catholic faith to inform and be informed by the richness of different indigenous cultural expressions.”

Clothing and music culture
In this regard, Father Bouvette continued, as people watch and follow the various liturgies throughout this papal journey, he asks that they “take note of the garment that will be worn” as it has been carefully prepared with the ‘indigenous art in mind,’ so both to signal an affirmation and appreciation of this distinctive art form, while using it to convey a message of faith. So that we hope this becomes equally clear and then visible among those who take part in something, for example, like the procession of the offerings in their distinctive costume.”

He then talked about the music that will be used. He asked that people be aware of the nature of the drum, ask themselves what is the meaning of this drum and listen to what the words that are sung say.

“These are all elements that I hope will show the acculturated element of what we do that makes it a bit out of the ordinary, but also show how harmoniously they co-exist.”Vatican News

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