God does not want ‘a world governed by religious laws’, Pope tells Canadian clergy


QUEBEC CITY (RNS) — On his second day in Quebec City, Pope Francis offered a way forward for the Catholic Church in Canada as it seeks forgiveness and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples hurt by its past actions. He also addressed the challenges of clericalism in the church and the rise of secularism in the country.

In a homily Thursday, July 28 for clergy and church members gathered at Notre Dame Cathedral, the pope also criticized those who would impose church beliefs in the public square.

“God does not want us to be slaves, but sons and daughters,” Francis said. “He does not want to decide for us, nor oppress us with a sacred power, exercised in a world governed by religious laws. Nope! He created us to be free and he asks us to be mature and responsible people in life and in society.

The pope’s remarks come as Christian nationalist rhetoric gains traction in conservative political parties in Europe and the United States. Recent comments by Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert that she’s “tired of this separation of church and state junk” has sparked debates in the United States regarding the role of religion in government.

His comments were also aimed at tackling clericalism – privileging clergy and religious above the lay faithful in terms of authority and importance – which the pope has accused of allowing sexual abuse and abuse of power to take place. spread within the Catholic Church.

Francis is on a self-proclaimed six-day “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada (July 24-29), where he formally apologizes to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples who have suffered oppression and whose culture has been almost eradicated by government authorities.

For the Church to be credible on its “new path” to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, it must recognize and atone for its past failures, the pope said. For the first time since arriving in Canada, the pope acknowledged the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults perpetrated by clergy in the country, calling for “firm action and irreversible commitment”.

“With you, I would once again like to apologize to all the victims. The pain and shame we feel must become an opportunity for conversion: Never again! he said. “Never again can the Christian community allow itself to be contaminated by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ means of coercing others.”

Restoring the relationship with the disenfranchised Indigenous community is not the only challenge facing the Catholic Church in Canada today, the pope said. “One can immediately think of secularization,” said Francis, who relegated faith and God “to the background.”

“God seems to have disappeared from the horizon, and his word no longer appears as a compass guiding our lives, our fundamental decisions, our human and social relationships,” he added.

Instead of trying to impose religion on the state or lamenting past times when the clergy influenced political power, the pope said: “Secularization demands that we reflect on the changes in society that have influenced the way about which people think and organize their lives”.

It is not faith that suffers a crisis, he continued, “but some of the forms and ways in which we present it.”

Pope Francis arrives for mass at the National Shrine of Sainte Anne de Beaupré, Thursday, July 28, 2022, in Sainte Anne de Beaupré, Quebec. (AP Photo/John Locher)

To solve this problem, the Church must have “pastoral creativity,” the pope said. Francis offered suggestions to clergy on how to embrace this transformation. He called on the church to preach the gospel in a way that reveals “the freedom that sets others free, the compassion that asks nothing in return, the mercy that speaks silently of Christ.”

To be credible, he continued, the Church must act as a witness. “We must begin with ourselves: bishops and priests, he says, who must not feel superior to our brothers and sisters in the people of God. Pastoral workers, who should not understand service as power.

Fellowship is the final element needed for the transformation of the Church, he said, to create “a welcoming community” that is “able to listen, enter into dialogue and promote quality relationships.” .

RELATED: Pope Francis condemns colonialism, old and new, in address to Canadian authorities

On Thursday morning, Pope Francis said mass in front of 2,000 faithful at the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, where his predecessor, Saint John Paul II, met the indigenous peoples for the first time during his apostolic visit to Quebec. in 1984.

Francis encouraged Catholics to embark on a “journey from failure to hope,” referring to the atrocities committed against Indigenous peoples in Canada. “In facing the scandal of evil and the wounded body of Christ in the flesh of our native brothers and sisters, we too have experienced deep consternation; we too feel the burden of failure,” he said.

“Nothing could be worse than running away to avoid it,” he said, adding that only through faith and the Gospel can one experience “the operative presence of God.” love of God and the potential for good even in seemingly hopeless situations”.

Thousands of worshipers gathered outside the shrine to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis. While many cheered him on as he toured the region in his popemobile, others held signs calling on the pope to take action to accompany his words of remorse, including rescinding the doctrine of Discovery, a centuries-old papal mandate that allowed Western nations to colonize and spread Christianity in the New World.

RELATED: After Listening to Indigenous Peoples, Pope Offers Full Apology


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