Reconciliation begins with truth says Cardinal Collins during Sept. 30 Mass at Toronto cathedral

Cardinal Collins, archbishop of Toronto, presides at Mass for Truth and Reconciliation Day, Sept. 30, 2022. (Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register - CCN)

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] –  Celebrating Orange Shirt Day in one of Canada’s most splendid cathedrals on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation must be done with contrition and commitment to truth, Toronto Archbishop Cardinal Thomas Collins told an early morning crowd at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica Sept. 30.

“Repentant because of the evils done in the name of the Gospel, thankful for divine grace and the gift of faith, and committed to the quest for the truth that will set us free, we ask God’s blessing on the work of healing and reconciliation,” Collins said in his homily.

The Mass began with a smudging ceremony before the altar.

Dr. Peter Menzies, Anishawbek from the Sagamok First Nation, said it was an honour to be asked to lead the smudging ceremony at the cathedral.

An expert in aboriginal children’s mental health and addictions, Menzies usually treats smudging as part of his personal spiritual practice and does not often receive requests from parishes.

“When I’m asked, I will do it,” he said.

Recognizing the centuries of Indigenous contributions to the Church and honouring Indigenous spirituality ought to come naturally to Canadian Catholics, said Collins.

“Within the community of the Church, we need to appreciate and celebrate the traditions of the Indigenous peoples, and of every national and cultural community, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the norm for us all,” he said.

The starting point for the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation has to be truth, Collins told his congregation.

“We need to be humbly attending to what has happened, and to patiently examine the facts as accurately as is possible,” he said. “Then we can face even the greatest evils with wisdom and courage.”

Celebrating Mass in St. Michael’s Cathedral on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is itself a sign of reconciliation, said Nisga’a artist and Alpha Canada outreach worker Julia Kozak.

Kozak designed liturgical garments — stoles, chasubles, copes and mitres — for Pope Francis to use on his pilgrimage across Canada in July.

“To see the cardinal smudge at the beginning is very meaningful,” said Maria Lucas, a Metis lawyer with the Aboriginal law practice group of Goldblatt Partners LLP. “As an element of our culture incorporated into the liturgy, it is important.”

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops looked to Orange Shirt Day as a day of atonement.

“We are especially mindful of the role of the Catholic Church in operating residential schools and the pain and ongoing trauma it has caused for generations of Indigenous families,” the CCCB said in a release. “In particular, we remember the children who endured pain and suffering in residential schools, aware that many did not return home.”

The Canadian Religious Conference, whose membership includes all of the orders that operated residential schools on behalf of the government, called on Canadians to learn their history.

“We can no longer turn a blind eye to this inglorious part of our history,” the leadership team at the conference wrote in a statement.

The vowed religious pointed to Pope Francis’ apology in Canada in July as a significant moment.

“The apology by the Holy Father is inscribed in a movement that calls us to acknowledge reality, to allow ourselves to be moved by regret, and to commit ourselves resolutely to the developments that we wish to see,” the CRC said.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also recognized Pope Francis’ apology as “a step forward in all the work that remains and a reminder that we still have more to do.”

In a statement released on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the Prime Minister framed the day in terms of collective duty.

“Reconciliation is not the responsibility of Indigenous peoples — it is the responsibility of all Canadians. It is our responsibility to continue to listen and to learn,” he said.