In Quebec, the pope comes up against the high expectations of the natives

In Quebec, the pope comes up against the high expectations of the natives

Pope Francis faced a brief protest in Quebec on Thursday and mentioned the issue of “sexual abuse” for the first time during his trip to Canada, during which he urged to rebuild the Church’s relations with indigenous peoples. .

In the morning, shortly before the beginning of the mass of reconciliation, in Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, two natives unfurled a banner on which one could read: “Revoke the doctrine”, in front of the altar and a few meters from François.

Beyond the apologies pronounced by the pope at the beginning of the week and which were expected by many natives, some are indeed asking the pope to go further and in particular to repeal the papal decrees at the origin of the “doctrine of Discovery”.

This refers to 15th century papal edicts that authorized European powers to colonize non-Christian lands and peoples.

The inscription, however, was only present on the side of the banner opposite the pope, and it was calmly removed soon after to be placed outside.

In the afternoon, before religious leaders, the sovereign pontiff called for an “irreversible fight” against “sexual abuse committed against minors and vulnerable people” without specifically mentioning those committed in boarding schools for natives.

“I would like, with you, to ask again for forgiveness to all the victims. The pain and the shame that we feel must become an opportunity for conversion: never again!”, he declared during a speech in front of bishops, priests and religious representatives at Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral.

– Portraits of the disappeared –

For Desneiges Petiquay, 54, who wears an orange scarf around his neck in tribute to missing Aboriginal children, this visit is “a message of hope”. She got up at 4 a.m. to arrive early and be in the front row in front of the church, where giant screens were set up.

“This pope knows that we exist here, he recognizes us. I read his biography, for me he is a good pope. Yesterday, I saw him up close, it touched me here”, says- her putting her hand on her heart.

According to the diocese of Quebec, 70% of the tickets distributed free of charge to attend the event were reserved for indigenous communities (First Nations, Métis and Inuit), to which the pope renewed his request for forgiveness for the drama of boarding schools for children between the end of the 19th century and the 1990s.

Among the faithful, some held in their hands a photo of a missing loved one. Many wore orange clothes, a symbol of the suffering of the natives.

“It wasn’t enough,” said Abigail Brooks, 23, a member of Saint Mary’s First Nation in the province of New Brunswick. She hopes for other actions to show that the Church wants true reconciliation.

– “Secularization” –

On Wednesday, before the authorities, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, François had renewed his apologies for the harm done to the natives by “many Christians” in particular in the boarding schools set up by the governments of the time to “kill the Indian in the child’s heart”.

Many suffered physical or sexual abuse, and thousands never recovered, victims of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

If the French-speaking province of Quebec has the largest number of Catholics in Canada, the crowds have nevertheless been lower than expected since the start of the visit, in the context of a Church in decline.

Before religious representatives on Thursday afternoon, Jorge Bergoglio also spoke of the “challenge” of “secularization”, “which has long since transformed the way of life of women and men today, leaving God almost in the background”.

On Friday, the 85-year-old pope, who uses a wheelchair due to knee pain, will meet Jesuits and then a delegation of indigenous people in Quebec before flying to Iqaluit (Nunavut), in the Arctic archipelago.

During this stage of a few hours, the last of his trip, he will meet former indigenous boarders in a school, before returning to Rome.

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