The sick pope chooses Canada over Congo and Sudan

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VATICAN CITY ( – Pope Francis will travel to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and apologize to Indigenous people for sexual abuse by clerics in Catholic boarding schools.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau receiving Holy Communion

Despite the ailing pontiff’s knee problems, which forced him to cancel a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan scheduled for the same month, the Holy See’s press office confirmed on Thursday that the pontiff would travel to the Canada July 24-29.

papal apologies

As part of a busy schedule, Francis will speak at two First Nations, Métis and Inuit meetings in Maskwacis and Edmonton on the morning and afternoon of July 25 and at a third meeting with Indigenous peoples in Quebec two days later.

The pontiff will receive a delegation of indigenous peoples to the abbot. The residence of Gérald Cyprien Lacroix in Quebec City on the morning of July 29 and fly in the afternoon to the traditional Inuit town of Iqaluit for a private meeting with students from former Catholic boarding schools.

I ask God’s forgiveness, and I would like to tell you, with all my heart: I am truly sorry.

Before returning to Rome, Francis will lead a public meeting with youth and elders in the elementary school square in Iqaluit.

“The purpose of his trip is very specific. He comes to meet Indigenous peoples in order to pursue a process of listening and reconciliation,” the Archdiocese of Quebec said, announcing a “Dialogue Circles” program to facilitate “listening to Indigenous voices.”

Francis meeting with First Nations leaders at the Vatican in April

“The Holy Father will thus be able to be close to those who attended boarding schools as well as their descendants, marked by injuries and their impacts,” the statement added.

Catholic colonialism?

Catholics are encouraged to prepare for the papal visit by joining the “Circles of Dialogue” program, which consists of 11 sessions prepared by the Jesuit Forum for Social Faith and Justice.

Sessions cover a wide range of topics including Indigenous creation stories, racism, injustice, inequality and deconstructing stereotypes. The program calls for the dismantling of the “doctrine of Christian discovery” and the creation of pathways to decolonization.

The Catholic Church is pretty much the only institution… with the moral authority to act as some sort of arbiter.

Francis will meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a Catholic who regularly receives Holy Communion despite his strongly held anti-Catholic positions on abortion, homosexuality and transgenderism.

Trudeau has urged the Pope to formally apologize to Indigenous communities following a spate of burnings and vandalism of Catholic churches last July.

Francis with First Nations leaders in the Vatican

From 1831 to 1996, Canada’s residential school system separated Indigenous children from their families, subjecting them to malnutrition and physical and sexual abuse in what the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “genocide.” cultural “.

On April 1, Francis apologized to the indigenous leaders present in the Vatican, saying, “I ask God’s forgiveness, and I would like to tell you with all my heart: I am truly sorry. And I join my brethren, the Canadian bishops, in apologizing to you.”

Indigenous leaders have repeatedly called on the pope to apologize on Canadian soil. “We accept this apology as a gesture of good faith that acknowledges that he will come to our home and visit our families to formally apologize to all of our family members,” Assembly Chief Gerald Antoine said. First Nations at a press conference.

Of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, 506,000 identify themselves as Catholic, 134,000 Anglican, 59,000 United Church members and 36,000 Pentecostals. About 63,000 practice Indigenous spirituality and one in five claim no religion.

The Pope will celebrate Holy Mass for the faithful twice: at Commonwealth Stadium, Edmonton and at the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec. He will also meet other Jesuits at the Archbishop’s residence in Quebec.

Putting Africa aside

International persecution consultant Dr. Martin Parsons told Church Militant that the pope’s visit to Africa would have better served the cause of the persecuted church.

François canceled his planned July 2-7 visit to the conflict-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan “at the request of his doctors so as not to jeopardize the results of the therapy he is undergoing. for his knee,” Vatican Press Office director Matteo Bruni said.

Christian leaders argued that a prophecy regarding Cush from the Book of Isaiah predicted the independence of South Sudan.

Church Militant contacted the Holy See’s press office to ask why the Holy Father was willing to undertake such a demanding trip to Canada after canceling the trip to Africa, especially since the cause of persecuted Christians in Africa seemed more urgent. Moreover, Francis himself underlined his concern for the people of the so-called peripheries.

The Holy See press office did not respond to Church Militant’s request for comment at press time.

Congolese persecuted

More than half of the DRC – around 35 million souls – is Catholic, with six archdioceses and 41 dioceses. Christians face high levels of violence from Muslim militants, who are particularly active in the east of the country, according to Open Doors.

In 2021, the government announced a state of siege in the northeastern provinces to curb violence perpetrated by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamic group working to ethnically cleanse Christians and supplant them with radical Muslims .

Preparing for the papal visit through “dialogue circles”

Unlike Canada, which is experiencing an implosion of the Catholic Church, Christianity in the DRC is growing at 3.36% annually, while the annual growth rate of the Catholic Church is approximately 3.44%.

During the Second Congo War (1998-2003), the Commission for Africa described the Catholic Church as “the only reasonable coherent organization in the country, which functioned as a post office in the absence of a postal service national”.

While the conflict has claimed more than 6 million lives, more than 800,000 people from the DRC live as refugees in neighboring countries and 4.5 million people are internally displaced.

Chatham House analyst Ben Shepherd notes: “The Catholic Church is about the only institution in the DRC with the moral authority to act as a sort of arbiter and impose real pressure on the political elite.

“And while the Congolese state is deteriorating, the Catholic Church has basically remained the only national organization with the reach and the resources to provide anything to the people,” adds Shepherd.

The misfortunes of Sudan

Persecution of Christians decreased significantly after South Sudan became an independent nation and split from predominantly Arab and Muslim Sudan in 2011, Parsons told Church Militant.

“Christian leaders held that a prophecy regarding Cush from the book of Isaiah foretold the independence of South Sudan, and a draft of the national anthem referred to the country as Cush, Eden and a land of milk and honey”, writes Christopher Tounsel in Chosen Peoples: Christianity and Political Imagination in South Sudan.

François kisses the feet of President Kiir Mayardit

Catholics constitute 39.7% of the population, followed by Anglicans and Eritrean Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and Greek Orthodox.

Pope Francis kissed the feet of the country’s Catholic President, Kiir Mayardit, when the politician visited the Vatican for a “peace retreat” with leaders of rebel forces in 2019.

Francis was due to make an “ecumenical pilgrimage of peace” with Anglican Archbishop Justin Welby and Church of Scotland moderator Iain Greenshields to meet with President Mayardit and five vice-presidents to follow through on commitments made at the retreat of the Vatican.

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