Sunrise ceremony before papal visit
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ROME — Delegates and supporters from the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami gathered on the roof of their hotel Monday morning for a sunrise ceremony before the first meetings with Pope Francis in Rome.
The ceremony was led by Fred Kelly, a citizen of the Ojibways of Onigaming of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty 3 and an elder in Midewin, the sacred law and medicine society of the Anishinaabe.
Treaty 3 includes land from just west of Thunder Bay to just east of Winnipeg.
The ceremony, with a backdrop of the nearby famous Roman Catholic Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, included the burning of sweetgrass, a pipe, strawberries, water and drumming and singing.
Kelly said before the ceremony that the word “Ojibway” means “roots.” As trees and plants have roots, Indigenous people “have a special relationship to the land,” he said.
“We belong to the land, but we don’t own the land. The dominant society in Canada sees it differently, they think they can own it.”
The morning ceremony was preceded the night before by a mass for delegates, their supporters and others. Prayer was offered for the visits by delegates to the Pope this week.
The mass was presided over by bishops Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, Donald Bolen of Regina, William T. McGrattan of Calgary, Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme, Que., and Richard Smith of Edmonton.
Bishop McGrattan said in his homily that every Christian is called on to be a “minister of reconciliation” and that achieving reconciliation requires people to “walk together” while “taking very small steps.”
The meeting with the Pope is one of those steps, he said.
It is “like a seed, but it can bear the fruit of healing and forgiveness,” McGrattan said.
In his prayer after the homily, Bishop McGrattan prayed that the visits would create a “path to repair the injustices of the past.”
John Longhurst is in Rome this week to cover the papal visit by Indigenous people for the Free Press. See coverage of the visit at www.winnipegfreepress.com/papalvisit
Updated on Monday, March 28, 2022 7:55 AM CDT: Minor changes