Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller says Pope Francis’ apology to Canada’s Indigenous people set in motion a “pilgrimage of closeness.” Register file photo

Miller awaits Pope’s ‘pilgrimage of closeness’

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  • April 6, 2022

Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller says Pope Francis has set in motion a “pilgrimage of closeness” between the Catholic Church and Canada’s First Nation, Metis and Inuit peoples with his historic apology.

In a letter sent the day Francis communicated his sorrow to a delegation in Rome seeking pontifical acknowledgement of Indian Residential School system horrors, Miller said the Holy Father’s words expressed the shame of all Catholics over the abuses committed in the Church’s name.

“Speaking for all of us, you expressed forthrightly your indignation and shame for those members of the Church who, in their interactions and dealings with Indigenous peoples, especially in the residential schools, acted in ways contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” the Archbishop wrote.

On behalf of all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Miller expressed heartfelt gratitude to Francis for listening so attentively to accounts from the delegations during their week-long series of audiences with the Pope.

Alluding to the pontiff’s promise to come to Canada, perhaps as early as July on the Feast of St. Anne, Miller said such a visit would continue the work of healing wounds inflicted on Indigenous people by the Church’s participation in abusive colonial structures.

“We look forward to your pilgrimage of closeness, which will be a further step on the path the Church in Canada is walking with First Nation, Metis and Inuit peoples,” he wrote.

Expanding on the letter during his homily last Sunday at Vancouver’s Holy Rosary Cathedral, the Archbishop noted Francis had gone beyond the audiences with the individual delegations to hosting a meeting with about 200 representatives from the First Nations, Metis and Innu groups.

“At this gathering he both summed up his personal reaction to what he had heard, offered an apology, and let it be known that the mutual journey of seeking truth, justice, reconciliation and healing would continue in his visit to Canada,” he said.

The homily continued the spirit of Miller’s post-apology letter in which he said Francis has made possible real reconciliation by living the truth of the Gospel. Quoting the Pope’s own words, the archbishop said they set a clear course of repentance for the past, and actions for the future.

“Your words of understanding, compassion and apology will go a long way in the ongoing journey of truth, justice, healing and reconciliation that we are embarking on with renewed conviction.”

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