Pope Francis makes amends for Church abuse of indigenous children

by Fr. Shay Cullen

Pope Francis with the papal ferula used by John Paul II | Photo by Long Thiên via Wikimedia Commons

The hurt, pain, and damage to the lives of countless indigenous children were at the top of Pope Francis’ visit to Canada on July 25. The climate change damage to their ancestral lands and environment by the economic activities of big business was also on his mind, and he spoke forcibly and clearly.

Pope Francis has strongly commented on the destructive climate change caused by the wealthy nation’s outpouring of greenhouse gasses that cause global warming and climate change seen in many devastating wildfires, drought in some countries, floods elsewhere, and poverty everywhere, by the failed policies of the government and big business on a scale never seen before. Everything is connected.

Pope Francis challenged them recently on the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation. He called on world leaders to address climate change and growing poverty, especially among indigenous peoples. On July 25, the Pope visited the Canadian indigenous people to bring apologies and help to the former victims and survivors of abuse in Church-run, government-funded residential schools. He advocated for a halt to government destructive environmental policies affecting the indigenous people of Canada.

His call to the rich nations is that they must act to stop the destruction caused by climate change since they have been destroying the environment for two hundred years, silencing and corrupting nature’s song of life and rebirth.

“Tragically, that sweet song is accompanied by a cry of anguish. Or even better: a chorus of cries of anguish. In the first place, it is our sister, Mother Earth, who cries out. Prey to our consumerist excesses, she weeps and implores us to put an end to our abuses and to her destruction,” he said.

Pope Francis repeated the message he made last year “In the name of God.” He called on the governments to stop enabling businesses and multinational corporations to destroy the natural world through mining. “To stop destroying forests, wetlands, and mountains, to stop polluting rivers and seas, to stop poisoning food and people,” he said. They have an “ecological debt” to pay for; they are responsible for most of the damage to the environment and are the root cause of poverty and hurt to the indigenous people in the world.

“Pope Francis repeated the message he made last year “In the name of God.” He called on the governments to stop enabling businesses and multinational corporations to destroy the natural world through mining. “

Pope Francis went to the Canadian Arctic to Iqaluit, supposedly the coldest place in the Northern Hemisphere, but with global warming, it is losing the people’s traditional food source. His first visit was to the indigenous people in Edmonton, and later Iqaluit and Quebec, marked with simplicity and no official welcome.

Besides addressing the devastating effects of the non-stop burning of coal, oil, and gas to fuel the world economy, Pope Francis also spoke on the devastating effects of systematic physical, psychological and sexual abuse of the children of indigenous people in the Canadian government’s Church-run residential schools where hundreds of thousands of native children were incarcerated and forced to abandon their native culture and values.

Priests and nuns paid by the Canadian government dragged the children into strictly disciplined schools where bullying, hunger, disorientation, and hopelessness dominated their lives as they despaired their parents’ love and care. It led to great suffering for the children that they never loved. When they became adults, they were unable to love their children sufficiently, causing significant social and psychological pain in disturbed, impoverished, and alienated suffering people.

The visit of Pope Francis was of enormous significance, centered on their community in Edmonton and not on the political capital in Ottawa. He gave no comfort to the political regime and church officials that covered up the historical abuse and, in recent years, allegedly siphoned off to their projects the restitution money that was due to the surviving victims and their families.

Over a thousand secret graves of abused children who died of loneliness, neglect, and abuse were discovered recently. Previous agreements and settlements have been violated by the betrayal of political and church authorities to their eternal shame. Now, good Pope Francis has to be the one to make amends and apologize for the past wrongdoing of sinful church officials.

“Poverty is spreading everywhere. In 2021, an estimated 698 million poor people, or nine percent of the entire global population, surviving on less than US $2 a day, known as extreme poverty. The indigenous peoples of the Philippines are also impacted by poverty, as are millions more.’

There was no pomp or ceremony at the airport when he arrived. He was greeted by representatives of the indigenous peoples and victims and survivors of the Residential Schools. Deacon Pedro Guevara Mann, the director of the visit, said, “The first time we will hear him speak will be at a former residential school site with survivors and former students.” He added, “This is the reason for the visit.”

Pope Francis is also deeply concerned about the damaged environment of the indigenous people and global poverty. He said recently, “Exposed to the climate crisis, the poor feel even more gravely the impact of the drought, flooding, hurricanes and heat waves that are becoming ever more intense and frequent.” “Likewise, our brothers and sisters of the Native peoples are crying out. As a result of predatory economic interests, their ancestral lands are being invaded and devastated on all sides, provoking a cry that rises up to heaven.”

Poverty is spreading everywhere. In 2021, an estimated 698 million poor people, or nine percent of the entire global population, surviving on less than US $2 a day, known as extreme poverty. The indigenous peoples of the Philippines are also impacted by poverty, as are millions more.

Malnutrition, hunger, and unemployment turn millions of Filipinos into slaves of poverty. The children are the worst affected. In the Philippines, millions survive poverty in infested hovels of the poorest poor. They survive by recooking the leftovers off the restaurant dinner plates of the wealthy diners. These are thrown into the garbage bags and are eagerly grabbed by the poor, which boil them into a trash food called “pag-pag” and serve up to thousands of hungry poor on the back streets of Manila.

Pope Francis said, “In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons.” That is one image of the harsh reality of poverty that the Marcos regime will have to confront and eradicate. A truth that none can ignore.

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