The Journey Home
~ an excerpt from “Papal Visit – One Woman’s Reflection: PART TWO – The Journey Home”, posted on Ken Gray’s blog, Take Note, on August 8, 2022
When I left on my pilgrimage to witness Pope Francis’ historic apology to Canadian Residential School survivors, an “act of penance” for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) called the cultural genocide of residential schools, I felt hopeful; I was open to hearing, and was willing to accept, the apology.
I am glad I went, as I was profoundly moved by the generous welcome from the people of Maskwacis, who prepared for this visit with such care and compassion. I was delighted by the wonderful display, for all the world to see, of the language, culture and traditions of the Treaty 6 people, who have shown their strength and determination to be the people Creator God called them to be, despite the years of inhumane treatment.
As I heard the words: “I am deeply sorry; I ask your forgiveness”… I felt a peace come over me. So many have longed to hear these words, from a church that was responsible for operating more than sixty percent of the Indian Residential and Day schools in Canada. I hoped that the trauma that members of my own family suffered within this system would be addressed; finally, we could continue to journey toward healing.
Sadly, I left still feeling disappointed, as the apology did not address the atrocities this system inflicted on my people. There was no mention of systemic assimilation policies; no naming of the abuses; no acknowledgment of sexual abuse; no admission of the lack of care for those who were sick. There was no apology for stripping the identity, language, and culture from Indigenous people. There was no admission of the spiritual harm done to generations of Indigenous children.
I longed to hear a full and complete apology. Such an apology would include the word genocide. I hoped with many others that the Doctrine of Discovery would be rescinded, as a specific and tangible action that would help Indigenous people recover a life of dignity as a proud, strong people again. This would have been an ideal time to return stolen relics now housed in the Vatican archives; now would have been a good time to abandon the on-going legal efforts of the Catholic Church to avoid paying the full, ordered compensation to survivors and their families.
The above comments notwithstanding, however, as I heard this less-than-complete apology, I was aware of the powerful and meaningful effect it did have on many who graciously received it, and who were making a choice to move forward with their healing journey.
Continue reading this reflection that includes pictures and links here.
The post on this website announcing that Bishop Barbara Andrews would be a witness to part of the Pope’s visit to Canada will be found here.