The reaction to the reports helped inspire a wave of vandalism and arson against Catholic churches, including some churches on indigenous lands that still serve indigenous Catholics. The attacks were condemned by indigenous leaders. Canada’s national statistics office, Canada Statistics, reported a 260% increase in anti-Catholic hate crimes in 2021.
Catholic outreach efforts continue.
The Canadian Bishops’ Meeting pledged continued support for Catholic institutions, seminaries and religious communities that foster a better understanding of Indigenous culture, language and spiritual traditions and values. They hoped this support would lead to more direct encounters with Indigenous communities and help non-Indigenous clergy and lay people hear Indigenous perspectives, “paying attention to issues of colonization and residential schools.”
The bishops expressed their appreciation for “the contribution of Indigenous culture and wisdom to our future life in Canada.” They will stand in solidarity with Indigenous peoples in “their stewardship of the land and the goods of Creation, the gifts of the Creator”. They will work with local community leaders to support the spiritual well-being of young people and address social challenges such as poverty, suicide, violence and incarceration.
They reiterated their support for the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund, which accepts donations from 73 Catholic dioceses across Canada to support reconciliation initiatives. The fund has raised $5.5 million and is “on track” to exceed its five-year goal of $30 million.
The bishops said they would continue dialogue with the Vatican on the issues identified by the indigenous delegates and representatives. They are actively working with the Vatican to issue a new statement on the “Doctrine of Discovery”, principles of sovereignty and conquest found in some papal documents dating back to European exploration expeditions in the 15th century, particularly disputes between Spain and Portugal.
The website of the episcopal conference provides documents on this subject, including the April 27, 2010 remarks of Bishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio at the head of the permanent observer mission of the Holy See to the United Nations.
Migliore said the documents believed to be the origin of the “Doctrine of Discovery” were rendered moot by successive documents or changing circumstances only a few years after their publication. He emphasized papal teaching in favor of indigenous peoples, including the papal bull of 1537 Sublime Deus.
“The Bishops of Canada continue to reject and resist ideas associated with the Doctrine of Discovery in the strongest possible way,” the bishops’ conference said September 29. They pledged to continue supporting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
It was the first in-person plenary meeting since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bishop Poisson, in his report to the bishops, referred to ongoing child abuse prevention efforts and the Synod on Synodality. He also noted that the new French version of the Roman Missal has been implemented nationwide. The new National Program for the Priestly Formation of Bishops has been published and implemented. His report provided new resources to help dioceses train lay ministers of catechist, lector and acolyte in accordance with the apostolic letters of Pope Francis.
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