(CCCB) The President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Most Rev. Lionel Gendron, P.S.S., has issued a letter to Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The letter indicates that Pope Francis, after carefully considering Call to Action # 58 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and discussing the matter extensively with the Bishops of Canada, felt he could not personally respond.
Writing on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Canada, the President acknowledges the need for the Catholic Bishops to improve relations with Indigenous Peoples in terms of healing and reconciliation. He also assures Indigenous Peoples that the Bishops have profound respect for them.
In its specific reference to Call to Action # 58 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the letter addresses Indigenous Peoples with the following: "...sharing your pain, [the Pope] has encouraged the Bishops to continue to engage in an intensive pastoral work of reconciliation, healing and solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples and to collaborate in concrete projects aimed at improving the condition of the First Peoples... In this context, a future Papal visit to Canada may be considered, taking into account all circumstances, and including an encounter with the Indigenous Peoples as a top priority."
The Bishops of Canada are equally convinced about the primary need for additional work to be done at the most local level, in terms of authentic encounters which address the helps and hurts, dreams and aspirations, needs and traditions of Indigenous Peoples.
The Government of Canada had contracted a number of Catholic organizations to help operate the former Indian Residential Schools. Since the early 1990s, Catholic Bishops and religious superiors have apologized for the sufferings of Aboriginal children in the schools. Pope Saint John Paul II, when visiting Canada in 1984, 1987 and 2002, met with Indigenous Peoples and affirmed their cultures and traditions, while acknowledging failings by some members of the Catholic Church. In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI expressed sorrow to Indigenous Peoples for their pain and suffering. In 2015, Pope Francis apologized to all the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas for abuses suffered, and in 2018 called for "institutional expressions of respect, recognition and dialogue" with Indigenous Peoples.
In 2012, Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk and Algonquin woman, was canonized and is invoked by Catholics as "Protectress of Canada".
Link to the letter to Indigenous Peoples in Canada