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Francis In Canada

Last week, it was very emotional to watch the news coverage of Pope Francis, in a wheelchair, going to Canada and acknowledge and apologize for the Church’s wrongful role in the abuse and treatment of Indigenous children sent to Residential Schools across Canada. To hear the history and personal stories of how children were taken from their families, banned from using their language, forced to abandon their culture, and in many cases abused physically, sexually, and emotionally by those that ran the schools, roughly three quarters of which were run by the Catholic Church, was gutwrenching. One of the most emotionally moving moments was when a long banner containing over 4000 names of those children who died in state residential schools was carried in. Seeing Pope Francis sitting by himself in the middle of a cemetery built next to the former Ermineskin Indian residential school, which is believed to hold the remains of many children, praying is very much etched in my mind. 

Reflecting on Pope Francis’ actions over the last few days made me realize that his model of how to apologize and seek forgiveness is something we as disciples of Jesus should seek to emulate.

Go to Those That Were Hurt

Pope Francis had apologized to representatives of Canada's Indigenous community at the Vatican last April. He could have simply left it at that, but he felt called to go to the Indigenous people on their land where the horrendous acts occurred to apologize and seek forgiveness in trying to reconcile.

A reminder to us to seek out those that we have harmed by our actions, especially in their environment and place of, safety, power, and dignity.

Acknowledge What was Done and That it was Wrong

He has been unequivocal that the treatment of Canada's Indigenous people, especially the children, by the Church was absolutely wrong, period. 

"I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” Francis said Monday in a powwow circle and adding, "I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,"

Being very clear to those we may have harmed by our behavior and admitting that our behavior was wrong is critical. There is no room for I am sorry, but… in our apologies. The focus needs to be on what we did and how it may have hurt others. Naming and owning is always a decisive step towards reconciliation and change.

Be Prepared for Non-Acceptance

Many news reports of the Pope's visit included statements from people who were not willing to forgive or want more action by the Pope and the Church.

"You took away my education, you took away my life, you took away my marriage, you took away my identity, you took away everything I wanted to be. Now it's nothing, and you say I'm sorry,"  80-year-old Henry Boubard a residential school survivor.

Just because we come and offer an apology and admittance of our wrongful actions does not mean the person we hurt is ready or able to offer forgiveness at this time. We need to be willing to continue to ask for forgiveness and be willing to show by our actions that we have truly changed.

Be Open to Listening

Pope Francis’ visit to Canada had a single purpose, to apologize on Canadian soil directly and personally to indigenous peoples for the Catholic Church's role in the government funded residential school system.  His visit was in response to requests by Canadian Indigenous leaders when they went to the Vatican and received an apology from the Church last April. My impression of the news reports I watched was that Pope Francis was listening and engaging those he met.

When we apologize and seek forgiveness for hurting another, we must be prepared and willing to sit and listen. To hear the pain and struggles our behavior caused, and to validate and acknowledge what they have been through.  


I think that Pope Francis' visit reminds us all of the importance of apologizing and acknowledging our sinful behavior, especially to those that have been affected and hurt. If you have not followed his visit to Canada last week I would urge you to spend some time looking back at the coverage of this historic event. It is a good reminder of how to take the words of Jesus seriously:

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Settle with your opponent quickly while on the way to court with him. Otherwise your opponent will hand you over to the judge, and the judge will hand you over to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.

Matthew 5:24-26

Peace, Love, and Blessings

Deacon Richard



  • Mary TachenyPosted on 8/04/22

    Thank you. A very profound reflection!



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