Aboriginal council calls for path to reconciliation

  • December 18, 2007

{mosimage}OTTAWA - The Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation calls for Christians to “walk together in a path toward reconciliation,” noting that a chapter concerning the residential schools has closed.

The Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement reached last year has entered the phase where the government’s $2.2 billion in compensation is going out to formers students.

“The compensation has begun to be paid to the former students, their families and their communities,” says a pastoral message prepared to honour Dec. 12, the fifth anniversary of the National Day of Prayer for Aboriginal Peoples. “We know that the financial resources will not be the sole aspect that will result in healing.”

The council, established by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1998 to link aboriginal and non-aboriginal Catholics, proclaimed the National Day of Prayer in 2002. This year’s message calls for an ongoing journey of reconciliation, recognizing that this journey will not be easy.

The message retells the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose feast day falls on the 12th, describing how on Dec. 9, 10 and 12, 1531, the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec Indian, who felt he was too unworthy to take her message to the bishop. Mary told him she had chosen him to speak to the bishop about her desire for a chapel to be built where she could provide comfort.

“Mary was very much aware of the abuse that Juan Diego and his people were receiving from the conquering Spaniards,” the message says.

The bishop rejected him the first time, but Our Lady appeared to him again and asked him to “gather the flowers on Tepeyac Hill, bring them to her, so that she could rearrange them in his cloak.” She commanded him to open his cloak only in the bishop’s presence.

“You will recount everything well; your will tell him how I sent you to climb to the top of the hill to cut flowers, and all you saw and admired. With this you will change the heart of the lord of the priests so that he will do his part to build and erect a temple that I have asked for,” she said. Juan Diego’s second visit to the bishop persuaded him to follow Mary’s request.

In the next 10 years after her miraculous appearance, nine million indigenous people of Mexico converted to the Catholic faith.

“Mary’s appearance succeeded where the missionaries and Spaniards had failed in convincing the indigenous people to become followers of Jesus.”

The message quotes Pope John Paul II when he said to aboriginal peoples gathered at the Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupré during his 1984 visit to Canada that their “encounter with the Gospel has not only enriched you, it has enriched the church.”

“Your Amerindian and Inuit traditions permit the development of new ways of expressing the message of salvation and they help us better understand to what point Jesus is the Saviour and how universal His salvation is.”

The message concludes with a reminder that all “are brothers and sisters of Jesus.”

“Each of us is called by Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, to be her ambassadors to welcome Jesus in our lives,” the message says.

Describing Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Mother of the Americas, the message says: “She wants us to follow her Son, Jesus.”

The text was drafted by Judge Graydon Nicholas, an aboriginal Catholic who serves as a provincial court judge in New Brunswick. The two bishops on the council are Saskatoon Bishop Albert LeGatt and Halifax Auxiliary Bishop Claude Champagne.

The full text of the message is available on the CCCB web site at www.cccb.ca

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