Cardinal Thomas Collins participates in the smudging ceremony at the start of the prayer service at St. Michael’s Cathedral for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Screenshot from YouTube

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation: A day of hope and repentance, says Cardinal Collins

  • September 30, 2021

For Canada’s Catholics, the first ever National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is “a day of penance and a day of hope,” Cardinal Thomas Collins said in a prayer service at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Toronto.

The prayer service was streamed Sept. 30 on the Archdiocese of Toronto’s YouTube channel (, where it is archived and available for viewing.

“As this is a day of repentance, it also is a day of hope,” Collins told a small group gathered in prayer at the Cathedral. “For honest repentance of the since of the past leads to new life.”

The service began with smudging and prayers to the four cardinal directions by Toronto Indigenous Elder John Robinson of the Native People’s Parish.

From their experience of the sacrament of Confession, Catholics should know that truth is the first step in any journey of repentance, said Collins.

“We need to look to the past, to acknowledge the truth, even if it is painful, as we do when we go to confession in our personal lives,” he said.

Toronto’s archbishop particularly highlighted the way the residential school system tore apart families.

“Children were taken from their families – something that is against all that we stand for as disciples of Jesus – and were often placed in a situation of fatal vulnerability,” he said.

In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called for A National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Call to Action #80. Ottawa made it a national, federal holiday as part of omnibus legislation passed in the spring. While such federal holidays apply to federal government employees and certain federally regulated industries, only provinces can declare a statutory holiday that applies to the population as a whole. Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have not recognized the federal holiday.

Collins ended his homily at the St. Michael’s Cathedral prayer service reading the Canadian Conference of Bishops’ Sept. 24 statement of apology to “the Indigenous Peoples of this Land.” 

In the apology, the bishops acknowledged the suffering experienced in residential schools, many of which were run by Catholic religious communities. They also pledged to continue reconciliation efforts, including a fundraising campaign, and “to work with the Holy See and our Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada as part of this healing journey.” A delegation of Indigenous people is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis in Rome in December. An apology by the Pope on Canadian soil would fulfill the TRC’s Call to Action #58.

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