Pope Francis arrives to lead vespers with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Quebec July 28, 2022. Photo by Michael Swan

Pope Francis poses three challenges to Canada at Quebec vespers service

By 
  • July 28, 2022
Michael Swan

Michael Swan
The Catholic Register

The Catholic Register was on scene with Pope Francis during his 'penitential pilgrimage' across Canada. See Michael's full reporting of the pope's historical visit.

If Canadian Catholics were looking for a roadmap to reconciliation, Pope Francis laid it out for them at a vespers prayer service in Quebec City’s exquisite Notre Dame Basilica Cathedral on a rainy Thursday evening.

As is typical of Pope Francis’ preaching, he laid it out in three parts — three challenges to the Church in Canada. Canada’s Catholics must find a way to make Jesus known, become credible witnesses to the Gospel and seek out genuine fraternity with others. None of those three priorities for a reconciling Church has anything to do with a negative, judgmental, condemnatory, defensive, narrow, navel gazing version of Christian life, he said.

“The negative view is often born of a faith that feels under attack and thinks of it as a kind of ‘armour,’ defending us against the world,” he said.

A real Christian remembers that God chose to be incarnate in the world, he said.

“If we are limited to a negative view, we will end up denying the incarnation,” said Pope Francis. “We will flee from reality, lament our losses, constantly complain and fall into gloom and pessimism, which never come from God.”

The alternative to a Church defined by nostalgia and a long list of secular enemies is a discerning Church, said Pope Francis. He praised the Canadian Church for discerning a path forward in the wake of its own history of sexual abuse.

“The Church in Canada has set out on a new path, after being hurt and devastated by the evil perpetrated by some of its sons and daughters,” he said. “I think in particular of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, scandals that require firm action and an irreversible commitment. Together with you, I would like once more to ask forgiveness of all the victims. The pain and the shame we feel must become an occasion for conversion.”

Francis also brought out the big guns of Canadian intellectual tradition, citing both McGill University philosopher Charles Taylor and Canadian Jesuit Bernard Lonergan. The Lonergan quote came from a 1974 essay on ‘The Future of Christianity.’

“The love that God gives us overflows into love… It is a love that prompts the Good Samaritan to stop and take care of the traveller attacked by thieves. It is a love that has no borders, that seeks the kingdom of God… and this kingdom is universal,” Lonergan wrote.

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