Pope Francis visits Quebec, apologizes again; Cannot hear Indigenous people present
By Jenna Kunze
Pope Francis landed in Quebec City, Quebec, on Wednesday afternoon on the second leg of his tour of apology to Indigenous peoples across Canada for the “evil done by so many Christians” during the residential school era.
The eastern part of his six-day trip, following Edmonton and preceding Nunavut, focused more on government than the previous days.
Around 5 p.m. EST, the Pope arrived at the Citadelle of Quebec. He first met privately with Governor General Mary Simon, an Inuk woman and the first-ever Indigenous person to hold this position. Next, the pope had a ten-minute private conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
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Afterwards, Trudeau, Simon and Pope Francis all delivered remarks to more than 50 residential school survivors, elders, knowledge keepers and Canadian dignitaries.
“I recognize and applaud what has been accomplished – what Indigenous communities have accomplished through this week’s visit,” Governor General Mary Simon told the crowd. “It was Indigenous peoples who worked to pave the way for an apology on Indigenous lands in Canada. We must remember that it is thanks to their courage and their resilience that we are here today”
Simon referenced the pope’s own words during his visit to Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton on Monday. “There, you said that reconciliation is a grace that must be sought. To this I would also add that reconciliation is a grace that must be earned through hard work and understanding.
Pope Francis, seated at the front of the room next to Simon, again issued an apology to Indian communities in Canada.
“I express my deep shame and sorrow and, together with the bishops of this country, I renew my request for forgiveness for the wrongs caused by so many Christians to indigenous peoples.
He said the Holy See and local Catholic communities “are concretely committed to promoting indigenous cultures through specific and appropriate spiritual means that include attention to their cultural traditions, customs, languages and educational processes in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Indigenous leaders and members of the public have had no opportunity to address the pope at all, Kenneth Deer of the Mohawk Nation told Native News Online from the ground in Quebec.
Deer is part of the Haudenosaunee Six Nations Confederacy, whose total territory stretches from northeast New York to southeast Ontario and southwest Quebec. The Confederation was invited at the last minute to speak with the pope. Deer and three other members of the Haudenosaunee Foreign Relations Committee had planned to ask the Pope to revoke the Papal Bulls, official decrees issued by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 that constitute the Doctrine of Discovery. The Doctrine of Discovery gave European explorers the license to seize lands that were not inhabited by Christians “and reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.”
“That’s what we’re here for. We’re not here for the excuses,” Deer told Native News Online. “We couldn’t present ourselves to the Pope, and we’re not happy about that.”
Deer said they will try to find a time in the next few days to meet with the pope before he leaves for Nunvut on Friday afternoon.
“We didn’t give up,” Deer said. “And some people are sympathetic to our efforts.”
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