Asking for prayers ahead of his visit to Canada July 24-29, Pope Francis described the trip as a "penitential pilgrimage" as part of a commitment to healing and reconciliation with the country's Indigenous people.

Published in Reflections

When Pope Francis travels to Canada to apologize to Indigenous communities for the way the Catholic Church joined efforts to uproot them from their traditional culture and spirituality, their traditions will be on full display.

Published in Canada

Ten days after saying he would name two women to the group that helps him choose bishops, Pope Francis appointed three women to the office.

Published in Faith

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Published in International

Pope Francis said he plans to meet with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill in September at an interreligious meeting in Kazakhstan.

Published in International

In a wide-ranging interview with the Reuters news agency, Pope Francis condemned abortion, dismissed the idea that he's preparing to resign and said he still hopes to be able to visit Russia and Ukraine in the fall.

Published in International

Pope Francis’ July 24-29 visit to Indigenous people in Canada will be the most public step yet in the Catholic Church’s escalating efforts to grow in reconciliation with the First Peoples of our vast country. Not only the most public, but also the most involving. Tens of thousands of Catholics will participate in the papal Masses in Edmonton and near Quebec City. Millions more may watch on TV. 

In doing so, we will be drawn into the web of reconciliation that the Church and Indigenous people have been weaving since at least the 1970s. In that era the Canadian bishops raised critical questions about how a proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline would affect the culture and lives of the people of the North.

The bishops drew considerable flak for daring to question the axiom of the developed world that traditional cultures are less important than the march of economic progress. Although Pope Francis was likely unaware of the pipeline controversy, he took the same stance when in 2015 he visited Santa Cruz, Bolivia — the home of that country’s economic elites — and declared, “The economy should not be a mechanism for accumulating goods, but rather the proper administration of our common home.”

The growing cooperation between the Canadian Church and Indigenous peoples was disrupted when residential school survivors began speaking publicly about the abuse they suffered in those Church-run schools. Catholics with eyes to see recognized that our Church had been an integral part of a system of colonialism and oppression.

Even with those revelations, that recognition is still not universal among Canadian Catholics. Our Church has been slower to respond to the calls to repentance and reconciliation than the Anglican and Protestant churches.

This papal visit stands as a kairos moment, a time of opportunity to move in a new direction — in relations between the Church and Indigenous people as well as a new direction for the Church herself. Since the Oblates of Mary Immaculates’ apology at Lac Ste. Anne, Alta., in 1991, numerous religious orders and dioceses have apologized for serving as pillars in structures which oppressed First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.

Some suggest we have apologized enough. But that assertion betrays an ignorance that a sin against God and humans is an infinite offence only forgivable through an act of Divine mercy. It also ignores that the effects of sin ripple down through the generations. We can never be freed from the role of oppressor until all the oppressed are set free.

That calls us to be a different sort of Church, a Church which liberates. Instead of being a Church which preaches morality, we must become a Church striving to make a common home for all Canadians, especially the First Peoples.

Today this is palpably not the case. How can Canada be the common home for all if Indigenous people are the most frequent victims of violence, a violence which police too often ignore? How can it be our common home if the First Peoples of our land live in poverty and despair and have exponentially higher rates of suicide and incarceration? 

The Church is a centre of worship of the living God. The Old Testament prophets repeatedly said such worship is worthless unless it is accompanied by action to end oppression. Our action must be to free our society of the scourge of racism and to make human equality a reality.

When Pope Francis spoke to the delegation of Indigenous people and Canadian bishops on April 1, he drew attention not only to the suffering of the Indigenous but also to the gifts they offer society. He spoke of their view of the land as a gift of God rather than a resource to be exploited. He spoke of the emphasis on community, of an understanding of the person not as an isolated being but as part of a web of relationships.

The papal visit will not be the culmination of the journey but an important step in nurturing a new relationship. It will be a time of hope, a hope we are all challenged to make real.

(Argan is a writer in Edmonton.) 

Published in Register Columnists

The church will be ready because the Church is ready — ready for Pope Francis and ready for reconciliation.

Published in News

A papal apology on Indigenous land in Canada is not irrelevant south of the border.

Published in Canada

Pope Francis last week issued a welcome call for Catholic theologians to transmit the truths of the faith in a way that will help those of faith live the faith in their daily lives.

Published in Editorial

If Pope Francis is going to broaden or deepen the apology he offered April 1 in Rome, then it’s going to happen at Maskwacis, 70 kilometres south of Edmonton, site of one of the largest Indian residential schools in Canada.

Published in Canada

Pope Francis’ commitment to Indigenous people to visit Canada “where I will be able better to express to you my closeness” now has the concrete form of an official itinerary.

Published in Canada

A delay in Pope Francis’ travel plans for South Sudan and Congo because of continuing problems with the Pope’s knee is not slowing down the planning process for his apostolic journey to Canada July 24 to 29.

Published in International

For many people in Rome, Pope Francis' decision to schedule a consistory to create new cardinals in August was more surprising than the men he chose to receive the red hat.

Published in Faith

For six days in July the most important thing happening in this country will be an old man confronting our history.

Published in Canada