Pope says he has been enriched by Canada’s Indigenous people

People listen as Pope Francis meets with a delegation of Indigenous peoples in the archbishop's residence in Quebec City July 29, 2022. (CNS photo by Paul Haring)

By Catholic Register staff

[Quebec City – Canadian Catholic News] – On the final day of Pope Francis’ pilgrimage of penance, one of healing and reconciliation, he says it is he who has been “enriched” by the experience.

“Now that I am nearing the end of this intense pilgrimage, I want to tell you that although I came with these desires (for healing and reconciliation), I am now returning home greatly enriched,” the Pope told a gathering of some two dozen residential school survivors at the residence of Cardinal Gerald Lacroix in Quebec City July 29. Reporters were present for the beginning of the meeting but were asked to leave following the formal speeches to allow the Pope to speak in private with the survivors.

“I bear in my heart the incomparable treasure of all those individuals and peoples who have left a mark on me; the faces, smiles and messages that remain with me; the unforgettable stories and natural beauties; the sounds, colours and emotions that touched me deeply.”

He told the survivors that while he came to be with them, “It was your life and experiences, the Indigenous realities of these lands, that have touched me, remained with me and will always be a part of me.”

An Indigenous woman displays a cradleboard as Pope Francis meets with a delegation of Indigenous peoples in the archbishop’s residence in Quebec City July 29, 2022. (CNS photo by Paul Haring)

He said that after five days crossing the country and meeting Indigenous people all along the way “that now, in a certain sense, I also feel a part of your family, and for this I am honoured.”

Pope Francis said he was impressed with Indigenous ways: the preciousness of family and community, how Indigenous “cultivate properly” the bond between generations young and old and how they maintain “a healthy and harmonious relationship with all of creation.”

He then proceeded to “entrust all that we have experienced” over these five days, “and our pursuit of the path that lies ahead,” to women, three women in particular, “who best understand how to protect the most important things in life.” He cited St. Anne, Mary — “no creature deserves to be called a pilgrim more than Mary” — and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the “Lily of the Mohawks” who was canonized in 2012 “whose quiet presence has accompanied us and whose remains are kept not far from here.”

“These women can help us to come together, and start to weave anew a reconciliation that can uphold the rights of the most vulnerable in our midst and look at history without resentment or forgetfulness,” the Pope said.

With meekness and determination, prophetic words and decisive gestures, “they blazed a trail and accomplished what they had been called to do.”

After the meeting, the Pope boarded a flight to Iqaluit, Nunavut, where he is to make the final stop on his journey before returning to Rome.