On July 29th, the Bishops of Canada thanked Pope Francis for his historic “Pilgrimage of Penance” to Canada (See press release on the CCCB.ca website). In looking back on the time Pope Francis spent in Canada, and his reflections on what he saw and heard, I am struck by what he has understood in so short a period of time and the sincerity by which he addressed it.
I was also struck by his love for, and his commitment to, the First Peoples of this land. Beginning with the time he spent with them in Rome, his deep desire to come to Canada on a
pilgrimage of penance, and his willingness to be open to the encounter, once here,
allowing himself to be further moved by the experience.
It is true, this is only the beginning of our journey together. Just like a seed needs to be fed and nourished in order for it to grow, so, too, the words and gestures of Pope Francis will require further pastoral initiatives for God to affect the healing that is needed. Like Pope Francis,
we need to ask ourselves, “How am I committed to God’s work of healing and reconciliation when it comes to the long legacy of Residential Schools and the long-term effects
of colonization on the First Peoples of this land?”
Pope Francis’ Pilgrimage to Canada marks an important milestone in this process. It is with gratitude that I acknowledge his visit, and it is with joy that I thank the First Peoples of Canada for welcoming him, sharing their stories with him, and having the courage to address the pain they have experienced at the hands of those who ministered in the name of the Church.
-Bishop Bart Van Roijen-