Pope John Paul II visited Canada on three different occasions. Or rather, on two and a half occasions, since 1987 has only been the last leg of a trip to the United States, as we shall see later.
In September 1984, Karol Wojtyla, in the full maturity of his pontificate, made one of his longest journeys—eleven days—to the enormous country with successive stages in Quebec, Montreal, Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, and the capital, Ottawa. On Tuesday the 18th he was supposed to travel to Fort Simpson to meet the natives, but bad weather prevented him from doing so.
respect for tradition
Devastated by this setback, the Polish pope addressed a radio and television message from Yellow Knife Airport to his beloved Indigenous Canadians. In this text, renew “The Church’s respect for your ancient heritage, and for the many traditions of your ancestors, is highly admirable.” But, at the same time, he recognized that “history clearly documents how over the centuries your people have repeatedly been victims of the injustice caused by newcomers who, because of their blindness, often considered your culture inferior.”
At the time, the boarding school scandals where tens of thousands of children died did not jump into public view, but John Paul II made this prescient statement: “Messengers, whatever their flaws and shortcomings, No matter how many mistakes they made, no matter how much damage they inadvertently caused, they are now making an effort to fix it.”
Before leaving Canada, he publicly and solemnly promised that he would return with the sole aim of finding the aboriginals of the American country. The promise was fulfilled three years later, when at the end of an arduous trip to the United States on September 19, he moved from Detroit to Fort Simpson where a large indigenous crowd had gathered. From the frozen arctic, from the prairies, from the forests, from all parts of this vast and beautiful country that is Canada, He said in his words the greeting before celebrating the Divine Liturgy with them.
In his address to dignitaries and governments of indigenous, hybrid and Eskimo peoples with some representatives of the federal government, he affirmed emphatically that “The Church honors the equal dignity of all peoples and defends their right to protectionthe cultural character itself with its own traditions and customs.”
But in another passage he was more explicit: “There are – he said – other values which are necessary for life and society. Every people has a civilization inherited from their ancestors, with institutions required by their way of life, With its artistic, cultural and religious manifestations. The real values contained in these facts must not be sacrificed in considerations of the material system.”
And at the end of his sermon, he addressed them with this challenge in the face of the tensions that were already beginning to emerge:It is time for reconciliationof new relations based on mutual respect and cooperation, in order to arrive at a truly just solution to unresolved problems.” Before boarding the plane that would take him to Rome, he was embraced by eminent numbers – men and women – adorned with feather headdresses and multicolored costumes.
The last Canadian trip was made by Karol Wojtyla who was already hit hard in Toronto in July 2002 to celebrate International Youth Day. At some point during the festivities, he greeted a group of representatives of Indian youth.