Gary Gagnon, an elder and educator in the Metis community. Photo by Michael Swan

Indigenous bring synodality to Rome

  • March 30, 2022

Metis elder and educator Gary Gagnon knows that what’s going on in Rome this week is not some esoteric side issue for the Catholic Church. It’s at the heart of the most important issue in the Church under Pope Francis.

“Syndodality,” Gagnon told The Catholic Register in an interview. “If we look at that word, it really means togetherness.”

Gagnon believes the Church can learn a lot about synodality from Indigneous people, who have used the power of walking together and talking things out to bring the Catholic Church to the brink of an historic apology.

“We've been doing synodality work here for quite a few years. Now it has come to fruition,” Gagnon said.

The Indigenous educator has brought the power of synodality with him to Rome. He has sought the advice of his students in the Edmonton Catholic schools about the message he should bring to Rome and to Canada’s bishops here with the delegations.

“I'm often with the Indigenous students and the Indigenous communities within these schools, and I do ask for their input,” he said. “I ask them, what would you say? What would you ask?”

For Gagnon, there’s no pretending that an apology on behalf of the Church doesn’t lie at the core of what’s happening in Rome this week. It’s important that that apology come in Canada, on Indigenous land. But also that it be fully inclusive of all of Canada’s Indigenous peoples — Inuit, First Nations and Metis.

“There are great implications, as you know, if they (Pope Francis and the Canadian hierarchy) were to say it. I realize that,” Gagnon said. “But it's the saving grace that we're looking for, to heal.”

If the Church can really understand itself as a synodal Church and act in a synodal way — eschewing the command and control built into a strictly hierarchical approach — then an apology will be meaningful and reconciliation possible, said Gagnon.

“We're reaching out to say, ‘Look, we're human. We can't do this healing just by ourselves. We need you too,’ ” he said. “That's synodality. That's the very thing that they (Pope Francis and his cardinals) are trying to do.”

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