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Special News--August 2022 Repentance and Reconciliation Learning from the Pope's Pilgrimage of Penance
Pope Francis in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada July 25, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
"Dear brothers and sisters! I have come to your native lands to tell you in person of my sorrow, to implore God’s forgiveness, healing and reconciliation, to express my closeness and to pray with you and for you. I am here because the first step of my penitential pilgrimage among you is that of again asking forgiveness, of telling you once more that I am deeply sorry. Sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous peoples. I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools." Pope Francis, 25 July 2022, Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada
Overview In this Update we probe into the crucial need for repentance (including giving and receiving apologies and forgiveness) and its central place in the efforts to further reconciliation (including restoring trust and relationships). It is a tough topic with huge implications for the wellbeing of all people and the planet!
Repentance involves a significant shift in one's thinking and behavior as a result of understanding and acknowledging wrongdoing. Reconciliation involves a significant shift in broken relationships from alienation and animosity towards reconnection and restoration. There is so much more of course that could be said about these terms--please excuse the brevity here of our definitions!
Specifically we present Pope Francis' current week-long "Pilgrimage of Penance" in Canada among Indigenous peoples and feature his 30 minute address on 25 July (links to the text and to the video). His public apology to Indigenous peoples on behalf of the Church has been long overdue and from our perspective reflects the courage and contrition needed to own the long-term grievous wrongdoings in the past and their ongoing negative consequences.
"I myself wish to reaffirm this, with shame and unambiguously. I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples."
Repentance is Good We believe it is good to repent and to seek reconciliation as much as possible and that this is something to be practiced by us all (people of faith or of no particular faith) and at all levels:individual-interpersonal-institutional-international and everything in-between. There may be other terms used rather than repentance and reconciliation such as "full apology" and "relational restoration" respectively yet the basic core aspects remain the same--to acknowledge wrongdoing and take responsibility for one's actions with a view to heal broken relationships. "I was wrong--I am sorry--Please forgive me--I will change--Let's maintain or restore our relationship."
We think that there is so much to learn from the Pope's address as well as the long and arduous process that it has taken to admit and repent from wrongdoings. The same is true for other institutionsand countrieswho have been willing to confront ingrained leadership, systemic, and structural deviance and cultures of corruption. Agreeing on the "truth" and way forward however can be quite a challenging process for two or more parties in conflict since there can be so many issues, identities, and resources etc. at stake not to mention misinformation and disinformation etc.! Robert Schreiter’s sobering comments on reconciliation at the societal level are also applicable at all levels: “Truth-telling, struggling for justice, working toward forgiveness: these are three central dimensions of the social process of reconciliation. In all situations I know, they are never undertaken on a level playing field; the consequences of oppression, violence, and war are not predisposed to honesty, justice, and even good intentions in all parties. Nor are the processes, for the most part, orderly. And they never seem complete, In fact, we usually experience them as truncated, prematurely foreclosed, high-jacked by the powerful....We can find ourselves acquiescing to half-measures, half-truths, compromised solutions.” (Schreiter, 2005, quoted in Wise Doves and Innocent Serpents? Doing Conflict Resolution Better).
Applications--Making It Personal Consider these items below as you review the materials in this Update--especially reading the text and/or watching the video of the Pope's 25 July address:
1. How is the Pope specifically apologizing: acknowledging wrongdoing, taking responsibility, demonstrating changes, makingamends, seeking to restore relationships, calling for justice? Is anything missing?
2. What helps and hinders "unambiguously" acknowledging wrongdoing and making full apologies? Can you cite other organizations and leaders that have publicly apologized fully (with or without having been "caught" for wrongdoing)?
3. List a few take-aways for your personal life and for your work settings. How might this example among Indigenous peoples be supportive of any efforts to reconcile with others?
4. Where else in the world is cultural genocide taking place currently? See the final section below on "Cultural Genocide--Into USA history and current practices internationally."
Featured Resources Repentance and Reconciliation Learning from the Pope's Pilgrimage of Penance
Pope Francis is in Canada to personally affirm Indigenous peoples and to apologize for the Church's abusive and catastrophic roles in their history and lives including in residential schools. 25 July 2022, Maskwacis, Alberta Canada
"Dear brothers and sisters, many of you and your representatives have stated that begging pardon is not the end of the matter. I fully agree: that is only the first step, the starting point. I also recognize that, “looking to the past, no effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient” and that, “looking ahead to the future, no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening” (Letter to the People of God, 20 August 2018). An important part of this process will be to conduct a serious investigation into the facts of what took place in the past and to assist the survivors of the residential schools to experience healing from the traumas they suffered." Pope Francis, 25 July 2022, Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada
"A woman sings Canada's national anthem in the Cree language during a visit by Pope Francis" Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada July 25, 2022. Adam Scotti/Prime Minister's Office/Handout via REUTERS."
Text --Read the text of Pope Francis' 25 July address HERE
--See the short commentary by the Editorial Director of Vatican NewsHERE "Remembering the devastating experiences in residential schools is shocking, indignant, painful, but necessary."
Pictures See 40+ pictures of the Pope's tour in Canada HERE (Reuters)
Videos --Watch the video (30 minutes) of Pope Francis' 25 July address HERE
--Watch somme of the short videos of the Pope's "Pilgrimage of Penance" in Canada on the Vatican News site HERE
Cultural Genocide Into USA history and current practices internationally
Screenshot from the opening of the PBS documentary described below
--See the Vox documentary on Native American children and boarding schools in the USA HERE (2019, 14 minutes). "How the US stole thousands of Native American children."
--See the PBS documentary on Native American children and boarding schools in the USA HERE (2017, 57 minutes)."A moving and insightful look into the history, operation, and legacy of the federal Indian Boarding School system, whose goal was total assimilation of Native Americans at the cost of stripping away Native culture, tradition, and language. #NativeAmerican#Indigenous#IndianBoardingSchools"
--And there are other countries currently doing the same with "colonial, re-educational and vocational etc." boarding schools where indigenous children and people are being forcibly assimilated in order to change their cultures (including political and religious beliefs) in line with those of the state and dominant party in power.
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Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be coworkers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail (April 1963)