Justice Murray Sinclair says the apology delivered Thursday by Pope Francis in Bolivia gives hope that the Catholic leader may comply with his recommendation that the church apologize for its role in residential schools here in Canada.
At a social justice summit in Bolivia, at which many indigenous groups and the country’s first-ever indigenous president Evo Morales were in attendance, the first-ever Latin American pope “humbly” asked for forgiveness.
Besides apologizing on behalf of the Catholic Church, Anna Martanga of CBS News reported that Francis turned his focus on “the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged”. “There was sin, and it was plentiful”.
“My predecessors acknowledged this, CELAM (The Latin American Episcopal Council) has said it, and I too wish to say it. Like Saint John Paul II, I ask that the Church “kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters””.
He defended labor unions and praised poor people who had formed cooperatives to create jobs where previously “there were only crumbs of an idolatrous economy”.
His apology for colonial era crimes against the indigenous people of America was offered at a so-called World Meeting of the Popular Movements in the city of Santa Cruz. “Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home”, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church said. “We Indigenous were never lesser beings”.
That’s a fancy way of saying that he tries to meet people where they’re at – and there’s no better example then visiting a prison.
The affectionate response Francis received was in stark contrast to the furore his predecessor Benedict XVI sparked when he visited the continent in 2007. “It is Jesus Christ, the compassion of one’s Father”, he explained as two different boys and girls ventured to the time and taken before him. “Cowardice in defending it is a grave sin”, he said, criticizing worldwide summits for their lack of results. Pope Francis instead used the fast-food eatery to change into his vestments and bless the items he’d use in the open air service.
“Remember one of our brothers, a victim of interests that didn’t want him to fight for Bolivia’s freedom”, Francis said from the popemobile to a crowd gathered at the site Wednesday.
The visit was a poignant stop before the pope headed off to Paraguay, where he arrived in mid-afternoon as the final destination of his week-long tour of South America.
The pope listened intently as three inmates described the nightmarish reality that they and thousands of others experience: not knowing how long one is going to be incarcerated; not having access to any sort of rehabilitation programs; exposed to violence and corruption; forced to sleep on floors.
“At times it appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain “free trade” treaties, and the imposition of measures of “austerity” which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor”, Pope Francis said.