Rosemary Ganley The Peterborough Examiner August 11, 2022
He learned and we learned; he changed and so did we.
That double-mindedness I was praising recently as necessary to cope with modern life, became crucial last week. I immersed myself in the 6 days of Pope Francis’ long- hoped-for trip to Canada.
I am a spiritually interested person with a Christian background in the Catholic Church of Canada. It has usually been in resistance to the patriarchal control of the institution, and its self-destructive exclusion of women.
My personal experience with the church has been benign - in a Protestant-Catholic family, in public education, and then with positive memories of church personnel who were academics, at the U of T. Overseas for six years, I enjoyed satisfying collaborative work with fine priests and nuns.
When I compare those experiences with the wrenching testimony of Indigenous people, I quake. The words of Inuk intergenerational survivor Tanya Tungilik about the disasters that befell her father Marius when he was sent, at age five, to the residential school at Chesterfield Inlet in Nunavut, (now Igluligaarjuk, with 500 people) bring one to tears and to rage.
This testimony is on the CBC website. To think the TRC heard 7,000 of such stories. The Pope listened attentively, felt pain and looked immensely sad.
In Canada today, there are 38 million people and of these, 1.7 million are Indigenous. I have been for the most part, ignorant of their lives. “Penitential pilgrimage” is needed here too, and probably among most Settler Canadians.
He travelled, Pope Francis the Frail, for many days over great distances, making himself vulnerable, uttering heartfelt words of apology repeatedly. Never before, in 2000 years of the papacy, has a Pope made a trip in the spirit of “penitential pilgrimage.”
The beginning of the week was unsatisfactory. He did not utter the words “genocide” or “sexual abuse.” The huge Mass in Edmonton was a golden opportunity for inculturation, but squandered. A well-known liturgist, Bernadette Gasslein, who actually lives in Edmonton but was ignored by organizers, described it as “hyper-clerical,” in Latin, and culturally exclusive. There was no drumming, no smudging, no sage or artwork, and no intentions cited in the prayers for missing and murdered women or for lost children.
Dramatically, the Pope was frequently publicly challenged by women. That is rare. The Cree woman, Trina François, who rebuked him in song, was unforgettable.
Public broadcasting served us well. CBC Newsworld presented many voices, including the most angry and dismissive. If I have one caveat, it is that hosts were generally, except for David Cochrane, uninformed about Christian religious words such as “vespers” and “liturgy” and “offer” Mass. These reporters were covering the words and actions of a leader who has worldwide significance. They might have researched more deeply.
We saw Indigenous grace and hospitality. I am now following an impressive commentator, Niigaan Sinclair, a professor at U of Manitoba, a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press and the son of Murray Sinclair, Chair of the TRC. Canadians saw anew the suffering inflicted on Indigenous people by the ideology of domination, racism and a colonial mentality, buttressed by 15th century papal statements. The 94 Calls issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, six years ago, are proving to be prophetic.
Francis was learning, too. By week’s end, he was uttering the words “sexual abuse” and “genocide” (on the plane home). In lay language, he showed himself as “coachable.” In all genuine encounters, both sides learn and grow. This happened before our very eyes.
The Canadian bishops must catch up with the lay people, who want financial reparations paid. The bishops are negotiating with the Vatican around the repudiation of the doctrine of discovery. The Oblate fathers in Rome are opening up more records. A new era is dawning, and our job is to keep it going.
Speaking of unfinished business, MP Michelle Ferrari has not answered my question of two weeks ago, why she is supporting Pierre Poilievre as leader of the Conservatives. I wait.
"Gleanings" is Rosemary Ganley's new book. You can purchase directly from the author at email@example.com or from >Amazon<