One of the most intimate stops on Pope Francis’ cross-Canadian reconciliation tour saw him visiting a local church called Sacred Heart that serves Indigenous communities in Edmonton. A few hundred people were able to join the Pope inside for prayer and conversations, the vast majority of which with the exception of a few dozen media personnel and the Pope’s entourage, were residential school survivors or descendants of people who were in the system.
I was able to speak with a number of people including the associate pastor of the church, Indigenous leaders, and even people standing outside the secured perimeter established around the church to discuss the impact of the Pope’s arrival, whether they believed it would make a real difference in the healing process, and whether meaningful action to address current Indigenous challenges, like access to clean drinking water, would mean more than an apology entirely focused on the past.
Last week, I visited Sacred Heart Church before Pope Francis’ arrival before making my way to another Catholic church in town to speak with Fr. Cristino Bouvette, a priest with Indigenous roots, who is serving in an instrumental role in organizing the papal visit. We discussed some of the challenges being faced as the Church attempts to make amends and reconnect with Indigenous communities across Canada, challenges which Pope Francis also worked to remedy during his stay.
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