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Calgary’s Catholic bishop optimistic about reconciliation after meeting with Pope Francis

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Calgary’s bishop says he received a message of hope from his recent meeting with Pope Francis regarding reconciliation. Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports. – Jan 15, 2022

It was expected to be a chance to share personal stories about the legacy of residential schools with Pope Francis.

A group of around 30 First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegates from across Canada were set to have private meetings with the Pope starting Dec. 17.

But that was called off because of safety concerns with the the spread of Omicron virus.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami issued a joint statement confirming the delay on December 7.

Read more: Indigenous delegation delays Vatican trip due to Omicron COVID-19 variant, says AFN Chief

That statement cited “the uncertainty and potential health risks surrounding international travel amid the recent spread of the Omicron variant.” It came after AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald announced the delay at a virtual gathering of chiefs earlier in the day.

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A delegation of bishops did meet with the leader of the Catholic church in December.  Among them was Calgary’s Bishop William McGrattan.

“He gave us a message of hope,” said McGrattan about the meeting with Pope Francis.  “He said you are doing the right things with seeking reconciliation. You are walking with the Indigenous peoples and he said I know it is slow but he said that shouldn’t deter us in terms of choosing that path.”

Read more: Discovery of unmarked graves impacts Cowessess First Nation

McGrattan hopes Pope Francis will stand in solidarity with Canadian bishops, who issued an apology last year over the Catholic church’s role in the residential school system.

“He’s very gracious. He listened. He understood that we were there talking about the issue of the residential schools and his eventual visit at some point in the coming years,” McGrattan said.

Yvonne Poitras Pratt is the director of Indigenous Education and Associate Professor at the Werklund School of Education at the University of Calgary.

She said Indigenous people are working to reclaim “all sides of our religious and spiritual orientations,”

Poitras Pratt is a Métis Scholar and was raised as a Catholic.

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“I know the injustices that I now teach on and a lot of the hypocrisy that surrounds Catholicism and the ways in which it negatively impacted our peoples has really made me step away from the Catholic Church,” Poitras Pratt said.

She said an apology from the Pope would be a step in the right direction when it comes to recognition of the harm done in the past.

“We need to see people stepping up and taking some accountability even if they weren’t, and maybe especially because they weren’t involved in the historical injustices. There needs to be some kind of movement, some kind of acknowledgement that moves past just the awareness and into a place of actions,” Poitras Pratt said.

Read more: Calgary bishop says its important for faithful to gather at Christmas services during pandemic

McGrattan said the Pope also asked the Canadian bishops their opinion on when would be a good time to meet with Indigenous people in Canada.

“He asked about what are the saints that are important to them. Should I be considering those times of the year? He was really trying to see the pastoral nature of what this visit would be and to connect to significant saints and events that might be important for our Indigenous peoples,” McGrattan said.

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Read more: Pope Francis to visit Canada for Indigenous reconciliation, Vatican says

A time frame is being worked out for a rescheduled meeting at the Vatican this year.

There is no word yet on when the Pope will be coming to Canada.

 

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