27 July 2022 | Address of His Holiness, Apostolic Journey, Meeting


"Citadelle de Québec"

The Holy See and the local Catholic communities are concretely committed to
promoting the indigenous cultures through specific and appropriate forms of
spiritual accompaniment that include attention to their cultural traditions, customs,
languages and educational processes, in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration
on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is our desire to renew the relationship
between the Church and the indigenous peoples of Canada, a relationship marked
both by a love that has borne outstanding fruit and, tragically, deep wounds that we
are committed to understanding and healing. I am very grateful to have
encountered and listened to various representatives of the indigenous peoples in
recent months in Rome, and to be able, here in Canada, to renew the good
relations established there. The time we spent together made an impression on me
and left a firm desire to respond to the indignation and shame for the sufferings
endured by the indigenous peoples, and to move forward on a fraternal and patient
journey with all Canadians, in accordance with truth and justice, working for healing
and reconciliation, and constantly inspired by hope.
That “history of suffering and contempt”, the fruit of the colonizing mentality, “does
not heal easily”. Indeed, it should make us realize that “colonization has not ended;
in many places it has been transformed, disguised and concealed” (Querida
Amazonia, 16). This is the case with forms of ideological colonization. In the past,
the colonialist mentality disregarded the concrete life of people and imposed certain
predetermined cultural models; yet today too, there are any number of forms of
ideological colonization that clash with the reality of life, stifle the natural
attachment of peoples to their values, and attempt to uproot their traditions,
history and religious ties. This mentality, presumptuously thinking that the dark
pages of history have been left behind, becomes open to the “cancel culture” that
would judge the past purely on the basis of certain contemporary categories. The
result is a cultural fashion that levels everything out, makes everything equal,
proves intolerant of differences and concentrates on the present moment, on the
needs and rights of individuals, while frequently neglecting their duties with regard
to the most weak and vulnerable of our brothers and sisters: the poor, migrants,
the elderly, the sick, the unborn… They are the forgotten ones in “affluent
societies”; they are the ones who, amid general indifference, are cast aside like dry
leaves to be burnt.
Instead, the rich multicolored foliage of the maple tree reminds us of the
importance of the whole, the importance of developing human communities that are
not blandly uniform, but truly open and inclusive. And just as every leaf is
fundamental for the luxuriant foliage of the branches, so each family, as the
essential cell of society, is to be given its due, because “the future of humanity
passes through the family” (SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Familiaris Consortio, 86). The
family is the first concrete social reality, yet it is threatened by many factors:
domestic violence, the frenetic pace of labour, an individualistic mindset, cutthroat
careerism, unemployment, the loneliness and isolation of young people, the
abandonment of the elderly and the infirm… The indigenous peoples have much to
teach us about care and protection for the family; among them, from an early age,
children learn to recognize right from wrong, to be truthful, to share, to correct
mistakes, to begin anew, to comfort one another and to be reconciled. May the
wrongs that were endured by the indigenous peoples, for which we are ashamed,
serve as a warning to us today, lest concern for the family and its rights be
neglected for the sake of greater productivity and individual interests.
Let us return to the maple leaf. In wartime, soldiers used those leaves for bandages
and for soothing wounds. Today, before the senseless folly of war, we have once
again need to heal forms of hostility and extremism and to cure the wounds of
hatred. A witness of tragic acts of violence in the past recently observed that “peace
has its own secret: never to hate anyone. If we want to live we must never hate”
(Interview with Edith Bruck, Avvenire, 8 March 2022). We have no need to divide
the world into friends and enemies, to create distances and once again to arm
ourselves to the teeth: an arms race and strategies of deterrence will not bring
peace and security. We need to ask ourselves not how to pursue wars, but how to
stop them. And to prevent entire peoples from once more being held hostage and in
the grip of terrible cold wars that are still increasing. What we need are creative
and farsighted policies capable of moving beyond the categories of opposition in
order to provide answers to global challenges.
In fact, the great challenges of our day, like peace, climate change, the effects of
the pandemic and international migration movements, all have one thing in
common: they are global challenges; they regard everyone. And since all of them
speak of the need to consider the whole, politics cannot remain imprisoned in
partisan interests. We need to be able to look, as the indigenous wisdom tradition
teaches, seven generations ahead, and not to our immediate convenience, to the
next elections, or the support of this or that lobby. But we need also to appreciate
the yearning of young people for fraternity, justice and peace. In order to preserve
memory and wisdom, we need to listen to the elderly, but in order to press forward
towards the future, we also need to embrace the dreams of young people. They
deserve a better future than the one we are preparing for them; they deserve to be
involved in decisions about the building of the world of today and tomorrow, and
particularly about the protection of our common home; in this regard, the values
and teachings of the indigenous peoples are precious. Here I would like to express
appreciation for the praiseworthy commitment being made on the local level to
protecting the environment. It could even be said that the symbols drawn from
nature, such as the fleur-de-lis in the flag of this Province of Québec, and the maple
leaf in that of the country, confirm Canada’s ecological vocation.
When the Commission for the creation of the national flag set about evaluating the
thousands of sketches submitted for that purpose, many of them by ordinary
people, it proved surprising that almost all of them contained the image of the
maple leaf. The convergence around this shared symbol leads me to bring up an
essential word for all Canadians: multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is fundamental
for the cohesiveness of a society as diverse as the dappled colours of the foliage of
the maple trees. With its multiple points and sides, the maple leaf reminds us of a
polyhedron; it tells us that you are people capable of inclusion, such that new
arrivals can find a place in that multiform unity and make their own original
contribution to it (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 236). Multiculturalism is a permanent
challenge: it involves accepting and embracing all the different elements present,
while at the same time respecting their diverse traditions and cultures, and never
thinking that the process is complete. In this regard, I express my appreciation for
the generosity shown in accepting many Ukrainian and Afghan migrants. There is
also a need to move beyond the rhetoric of fear with regard to immigrants and to
give them, according to the possibilities of the country, the concrete opportunity to
become involved responsibly in society. For this to happen, rights and democracy
are indispensable. But it is also necessary to confront the individualistic mindset
and to remember that life in common is based on presuppositions that the political
system cannot produce on its own. Here too, the indigenous culture is of great help
in recalling the importance of social values. The Catholic Church, with its universal
dimension, its concern for the most vulnerable, its rightful service to human life at
every moment of its existence, from conception to natural death, is happy to offer
its specific contribution.
In these days, I have heard about the many needy persons who come knocking on
the doors of the parishes. Even in a country as developed and prosperous as
Canada, which pays great attention to social assistance, there are many homeless
persons who turn to churches and food banks to receive essential help in meeting
their needs, which, lest we forget, are not only material. These brothers and sisters
of ours spur us to reflect on the urgent need for efforts to remedy the radical
injustice that taints our world, in which the abundance of the gifts of creation is
unequally distributed. It is scandalous that the well-being generated by economic
development does not benefit all the sectors of society. And it is indeed sad that
precisely among the native peoples we often find many indices of poverty, along
with other negative indicators, such as the low percentage of schooling, and less
than easy access to owning a home and to health care. May the emblem of the
maple leaf, which regularly appears on the labels of the country’s products, serve as
an incentive to everyone to make economic and social decisions that foster
participation and care for those in need.
It is by working in common accord, hand in hand, that today’s pressing challenges
must be faced. I thank you for your hospitality, attention and respect, and with
great affection I assure you that Canada and its people are truly close to my heart.