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Value of papal apology measured in individuals

Long ago I found myself at a public meeting in the community hall at Redstone … a hamlet on the cold Chilcotin Plateau.

Before their time, as it is now almost customary, organizers called on a local indigenous elder, Emily Ekks, to give a blessing prior to the meeting. She gave the blessing in her native tongue so for most of us in the room, as the saying goes, “it was all Greek to me.”

Well, not quite Greek, but close. Halfway through her blessing, I noticed a distinct change in the tone and cadence of her speaking. Gone were the more harsh sounds of her native indigenous language, replaced by the sonorous, sing-song tones of Latin religious chants.

Ekks changed halfway through and basically had moved from an indigenous blessing to a Catholic one.

At that moment it struck me how difficult a crisis of conscience it must be for many indigenous people who are clamouring to regain their indigenous identity from before colonization but who are also from generations upon generations of Catholics.

How does one reconcile that without abandoning one or the other?

Being neither Catholic nor indigenous, I have no idea. That is journey those wearing those hats must take. All I know is that it can’t be an easy one.

That brings us to the pope’s recent trip to Canada and his apology (of sorts, according to some) to indigenous people.

There has been plenty of criticism of the pope’s apology as he apologized for the actions of church members. He didn’t apologize on behalf of the church for its role in Canada’s residential school system.

So was the apology enough? Not enough?

As mentioned above, I think each indigenous person is on their own journey of reconciliation so there are as many answers to those questions as there indigenous people in this country.

If the apology worked for some, gave them peace of mind and helped in their healing journey, then the papal trip and apology was well worth the time and effort.

If the apology came up short for others, then, obviously, it was a waste.

Regardless, as with all apologies, the measure of their worth is measured whether those issuing them understand what they did wrong and subsequently change their behaviour. And, also as with all apologies, those to whom they are delivered must decide whether to accept them. In this case, that must be done individually, not collectively.

For indigenous people who are Catholic, and whose ancestors have been Catholic longer than anyone living today (a different kind of time immemorial), the road to inner peace is definitely not a straight one.

All any of us can do is allow those on that journey the time and space to take it.

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