Pope: ‘Christ, crucified in Canadian boarding schools, reconciles us on Cross’

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Pope Francis meets with members of the Church of the Sacred Heart of First Peoples in Edmonton, says reconciliation is a gift from Christ to move forward following the pain caused by the Church’s role in the Canadian residential school system.

By Devin Watkins

“Here is the way to follow: looking together towards Christ, loving betrayed and crucified for us; look to Christ, crucified in the many students of the boarding schools.

Pope Francis charted this path for the Catholic Church in Canada on Monday, as he met with members of the country’s only designated Indigenous parish church.

The pope held the meeting in the western city of Edmonton with parishioners of the Church of the Sacred Heart of First Peoples, following his public apology for the church’s role in running residential schools.





Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton, Canada

The Church as a “home for all”

In his address, Pope Francis expressed his joy at having the opportunity to come “as a friend and a pilgrim to your land”, adding that his apostolic trip to Canada is a concrete sign of his desire to support the healing process. .

Sacred Heart Church welcomes people from First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities, as well as immigrants from other countries.

The pope said the parish provides an example of how the Church should be “a home for all…a home where everyone should feel welcome, regardless of past experiences and personal life stories” .

Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton, Canada




Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton, Canada

Pain for the past of the Church

Pope Francis recalled the reason for his “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada.

“It hurts me to think that Catholics have contributed to policies of assimilation and disenfranchisement that have instilled a sense of inferiority, robbing communities and individuals of their cultural and spiritual identity, cutting off their roots and fostering harmful and discriminatory attitudes; and that it was also done in the name of an education system that was supposedly Christian.

Education, the Pope added, should be based on respect and never imposed in a pre-packaged format, but rather undertaken as an adventure to “discover together the mystery of life.”

Reconciliation on the ‘tree of life’

The pope then focused on the theme of reconciliation, saying that Christ brought a form of reconciliation that goes beyond outward appearances.

“Jesus reconciles us to one another on the cross, on the ‘tree of life,’ as the ancient Christians liked to call it.”

This tree of life, Pope Francis said, joins heaven and earth and embraces all of Creation, even the things that seemed “unthinkable and unforgivable.”

He said indigenous peoples attribute “powerful cosmic significance” to the cardinal points, noting how the Church of the Sacred Heart appropriates this symbolism and gives it Christological significance.

“Jesus, by the four extremities of his cross, embraced the four cardinal points and united the most distant peoples; He brought healing and peace in all things,” he said.

‘Scandalous Love’ and Peace

Acknowledging the pain endured by many Indigenous peoples and families at the hands of Canada’s residential schools, Pope Francis said he can “only imagine the effort it must take, for those who have suffered so much because of men and women who should have given the example of Christian life, even to think of reconciliation.

“Nothing can ever take away the violation of dignity, the experience of evil, the betrayal of trust. Or take away our own shame, as believers. Yet we have to start again, and Jesus does not offer us nice words and good intentions, but the cross: the outrageous love that allows his hands and feet to be pierced with nails, and his head to be crowned with thorns.

The way forward, the Pope said, is to look to Christ together and embrace Christ’s gift of reconciliation, “a peace that radiates from the heart of Jesus, a grace that must be sought.”

“If we are to reconcile with each other and with ourselves, with the past, with the wrongs suffered and the hurt memories, with the traumatic experiences that no human consolation can ever heal,” he said. – he said, “our eyes must be lifted up to the crucified Jesus; peace must be obtained at the altar of his cross.

Church of the Sacred Heart in Edmonton, Canada




Church of the Sacred Heart in Edmonton, Canada

“Living Body of Reconciliation”

Pope Francis went on to say that the Church is the “living body of reconciliation,” since it is the only body into which Christ has reconciled us.

He said the Church can never lead people to Christ by imposing Him through proselytism. On the contrary, Jesus must be “preached as He wills, in freedom and charity”.

The Church, he added, must be a place of welcome in which the Holy Spirit promotes the healing of wounded memories, which he said must be achieved at the local level in prayer and the sharing of life with each other.

Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton, Canada




Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton, Canada

Tipi: Sign of the proximity of God

The Pope concluded his address to members of the Church of the Sacred Heart of First Peoples with the image of the tipi.

He noted that above the altar and tabernacle are four poles representing the typical native tent, saying it recalls the Tent of Meeting where God dwelt while the people of Israel traveled through the desert. for forty years.

“The tipi reminds us that God accompanies us on our journey and loves to meet us together,” Pope Francis said. “God is a God of closeness, and in Jesus he teaches us the language of compassion and tender love.”

May God, he concluded, “take us by the hand, even through the deserts of history, and continue to guide our steps on the path of reconciliation”.

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