Barring very dangerous unforeseen events, next Sunday, Francis will embark on a journey of nearly 20,000 kilometers toward Canada. Many wonder if the Pope is in a position to take up this challenge and if not so reckless as to let an 85-year-old man with serious walking difficulties get on the plane.
It is clear that there must be a very strong reason for Bergoglio, who gave up a few weeks ago to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, to embark on this adventure. As he himself said, it is about fulfilling the solemn promise he made to the natives of the great American nation that he would go to see them to ask forgiveness for the atrocities committed by Catholics against them in the not so distant past.
Who are these indigenous people? Experts refer to three groups: “First Nations,” that is, the inhabitants of the country before the arrival of European colonizers. And secondly, the natives born from the confrontation between the aborigines, the Europeans and finally the “Inuit” of the Arctic, formerly known as the Eskimos. In total, more than one and a half million people.
In 1867, Canada became a subject state to the British Crown and in those years a specific policy was put into practice with the Indian population (“Indian Act”) characterized by the desire to assimilate them into the prevailing Western culture. To detain and send children to boarding schools and remove them from their families. In them they are forced to abandon their language, religion, and traditions; They are subject to a very strict regime, they suffer from malnutrition and diseases – especially tuberculosis – take their toll. Many of them died and were buried unidentified in graves that appeared. These government-owned schools were run by Christian groups, mostly Catholic.
The Pope denounced this tragedy, and, ashamed of abuses of all kinds, promised them that he would openly and seriously ask forgiveness from them. This is the purpose of your trip.