The visit of Pope Francis to Canada last week once again reflected the stereotype of the Church in the mirror of history. The purpose of the visit responded to the need to proceed in the process of reconciliation with the Métis and Inuit peoples.
Indigenous peoples of Canada have long shown justified outrage over their treatment during European colonization, because from the late 19th century to the 1990s, the Canadian government forcibly sent some 150,000 Indigenous children to boarding schools run by the Catholic Church. The aim was to educate them in the culture, language and traditions as part of the colonization.
The process of culturalization was born mortally wounded, as it assumed the false basis of cultural superiority, which unfortunately persists even today. The old idea that everything outside the principles of “Western Civilization” is barbaric, pre-human or inferior, causing girls and boys to be uprooted from home, from food, from the sounds of the moment. And this in itself is an act of violence.
In 2019, the Trudeau government acknowledged that the state was involved in genocide based on race, identity and gender. And he apologized for it. On that occasion, the indigenous people did not accept the apology, as the church had to apologise, given that the abuses took place in the shadow of the cassock. Thus, Prime Minister Trudeau asked Pope Francis to take responsibility and apologize to the indigenous people.
During his visit, the Holy Fathers acknowledged that the children were abducted to change their mindset, their traditions, their caste: their entire culture. And that too, in the words of the Pope, is “the equivalent of genocide.” Unfortunately, there is also a record of cases of cruelty and inhuman treatment, ranging from physical and sexual abuse to deaths from malnutrition, disease, abuse and neglect.
Unfortunately, this has happened many times in the history of the Church. Still in the middle of the last century, the world was shaken by the story of the kidnapping of two Jewish children, Robert and Gerald Finley, whose parents died in a concentration camp; After the victory of the allies, relatives tried to recover the children. However, in contrast to the Christian idea of charity, a strong dispute arose between the Jewish community in France and the higher hierarchy of the Church, who insisted that the children were already considered Catholic and prevented them from being raised as Jews. should go. ,
In the case of Canada, the visit, apology and recognition of abuses by Pope Francis is an important step. The Church has brought as many lights to universal history as it did shadows. And, in my opinion, their greatness lies in apologizing, repairing, and redirecting the way.
But there is no use in apologies for historical mistakes if the fundamental lessons are not learned. In the case of Native Canadians, as in others, the learning lies in recognizing the commonalities among all peoples and, therefore, the obligations of respect and care that they inherit. Ironically, what the Indigenous or Jews have asked the Church to do is to return to the essence of Christianity.