“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, colors and emotions that touched me deeply.”
Pope Francis offered those heartfelt words of appreciation to the people of Canada, as he prepared to depart from Quebec to make a brief stop in the northernmost city of Iqaluit.
The Pope met Friday morning with a delegation of indigenous people present in Quebec at the Archbishop’s Residence.
‘Pain for wrong inflicted’
Pope Francis recalled that he came to Canada as a pilgrim and as “a friend in order to meet you and to see, hear, learn, and appreciate how the indigenous peoples of this country live.”
“I have come as a brother, to discover firsthand the good and bad fruit borne by members of the local Catholic family in the course of the years,” he said. “I have come in a spirit of penance, to express my heartfelt pain at the wrong inflicted on you by not a few Catholics who supported oppressive and unjust policies in your regard.”
The Pope expressed his hopes that his visit may advance the “search for truth” to help in healing and reconciliation, while sowing “seeds of hope” for future generations.
As he prepared to depart Canada later on Friday, Pope Francis said he is returning to Rome “greatly enriched” and that he has felt particularly moved by the “indigenous realities of these lands”.
The celebration of the feast of St. Anne was a special highlight, said the Pope, since it offered a reminder to conserve the bond between young and old and “to maintain a healthy and harmonious relationship with all of Creation.”
Weave anew reconciliation
Pope Francis went on to encourage all Canadians—indigenous and non-indigenous alike—to entrust the fruits of his visit to three holy women: St. Anne, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and St. Kateri Tekakwitha.
St. Anne, he said, recalls the gifts of tenderness and protection; Mary points to our pilgrim path to heaven; and, St. Kateri offers an example of exemplary devotion to prayer and work, as well as the “ability to endure many trials with patience and meekness”.
Journey toward healing
In conclusion, the Pope encouraged the people of Canada to follow the dreams God has planted in their hearts with “meekness and determination” in the footsteps of these holy women.
“May they bless the journey we now share,” he prayed, “and intercede for us and for this great work of healing and reconciliation that is so pleasing to God.”