World July 4, 2018

Pope committed to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples: nuncio

By Deborah Gyapong

Canada’s Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi speaking at a reception he hosted at his Ottawa residence June 29. (Deborah Gyapong photo)

OTTAWA—Pope Francis is committed to contributing to the process of reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples, says the Vatican’s representative to Canada.

Addressing the issue for the first time since the Canadian bishops indicated in March that a papal visit was not imminent, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi acknowledged a “lively discussion” had taken place concerning a papal apology on Canadian soil for the Church’s involvement in the residential schools. 

He told a June 29 reception that he hosted for diplomats, Church leaders, and politicians that, despite media accounts suggesting the Pope would not “be available to listen to the request made by the Indigenous peoples,” the Pope shared the commitment of the Canadian Church to work towards reconciliation.

“As the Pope’s representative in Canada, I can assure you that Pope Francis is not against a gesture of reconciliation and he is willing to seek together ways that can foster the desired process of healing and reconciliation with and among the Indigenous peoples in this country,” said the apostolic nuncio, without addressing a timetable for a possible papal visit or confirming one is in the works. 

“I wish to underline how this goal is fully shared by the Catholic Church in Canada, which is committed to quietly and patiently studying ways and means of walking in a real and meaningful process of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” said Archbishop Bonazzi.

“For its part, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, since last February, has sponsored listening sessions all across Canada with representatives of our Indigenous communities, mostly elders.

“These meetings were born out of the conviction that the first verbs to be combined to promote an authentic process of healing and reconciliation are not ‘planning’ and ‘doing,’ but ‘listening’ and ‘meeting.’"

Among the questions discussed in these sessions are: “Where should we, as Church, be putting our energy as we continue to learn to walk with Indigenous people?” and “What would you like to see first in strengthening relations between Indigenous people and the Catholic Church in your territory?"

The nuncio’s remarks were met with applause.

On May 1, members of all parties in the House of Commons supported a motion to ask the Pope to come to Canada to make an apology for the residential schools. 

At the nuncio’s reception, the archbishop highlighted some of the Pontiff’s priorities.

“A united world and the harmony of the human family are at the centre of the mission of the Bishop of Rome,” the nuncio said. “In his bold vision for a peaceful, free and just world, Pope Francis has touched on themes that have been in the headlines, like the Syrian war and the Rohingya refugee crisis.”

He also spoke of Pope Francis’ focus on young people, highlighting the pre-synod last March in preparation for the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment in Rome Oct. 3-28 and the upcoming World Youth Day in Panama.

“Many Canadian young people will travel to Panama in January of 2019 to participate with Pope Francis in the 33rd World Youth Day and I am confident they will bring back with them something of that unity and harmony of which we have spoken and which is so important to Pope Francis.”

Canadian Catholic News