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This article was published 16/6/2015 (1526 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The words "reconciliation" and "forgiveness" ring true to the ears of the faithful, but that doesn’t mean implementing them is easy or quick, say some of the city’s religious leaders.
"The word ‘reconciliation’ is a religious word; it is a spiritual word," says Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg in response to the 94 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"It is to enter a new conversation, to enter a new relationship. It is to become friends again."
How that friendship may look was suggested out in the TRC’s summary report released earlier this month, which contains half a dozen recommendations aimed specifically at the churches involved in running the Indian Residential Schools.
Several denominations partnered with the Canadian government for nearly a century to run the more than 130 residential schools, including Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian and the United Church of Canada.
Winnipeg’s Anglican bishop says the report provides a framework for action and education, such as including indigenous perspectives in theological schools, studying the history and legacy of residential schools, and understanding the role of churches in colonization.
"For us, the TRC report is not threatening and it gives us a shot in the arm to really keep the agenda of healing and reconciliation and working in partnership with aboriginal people in front of (our) people," says Bishop Donald Phillips of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land.
He says one small way people can learn more is to click on the videos posted at www.22days.ca, an Anglican-sponsored website that posts a sacred story of residential-school survivor daily until June 21.
Conversations need to continue in pews and parish halls, as people wrestle with their denomination’s involvement in what the TRC called a cultural genocide, admits Phillips.
"Whether we like it or not, the Anglican Church continues to carry some unresolved guilt or shame over what happened," he says.
"We have to come to terms with it spiritually between ourselves and our God."
That’s the kind of work already in process through Returning to Spirit (www.returningtospirit.org), a national non-profit organization that runs bridge-building workshops for aboriginals and non-aboriginals, says the Manitoba-based executive director.
"There can be no reconciliation with other people or life if there is no reconciliation with yourself," explains Lisa Raven of Hollow Water First Nation.
"(Our workshops) allow people to look at themselves in the mirror and name things that really disempower them."
Even if they were not directly involved in residential schools, all Christian denominations and all faith groups can benefit from the TRC process and recommendations, says the national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. That includes institutional measures, such as adopting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, but also working at the local level to reframe relationships with aboriginal people and actively work at eliminating stereotypes.
"I think this is holy work," says Bishop Susan Johnson.
"Reconciliation is about right relationships, which is about respect and understanding, but’s it’s all about justice. You can’t be reconciled when there isn’t justice."
Report recommends papal visit
He’s not scheduled to come to Canada yet, but don’t rule out a quick visit by Pope Francis, says the Archbishop of Winnipeg.
"It’s a national need for healing and I think Pope Francis could be a natural person to help that healing," says Archbishop Richard Gagnon.
"Why not keep in mind what happened in 1987, when the pope popped down (to Fort Simpson, NWT) for a specific person?"
Gagnon suggests that visit could take place in Winnipeg, but no invitation has been issued yet.
The TRC report calls for the Roman Catholic pontiff to come to Canada within a year to apologize to residential school survivors and their families for the church’s role in abuse of aboriginal children in Catholic-run schools.
"It represents a hope that the TRC has. It would be an ultimate gesture of reconciliation that the pope would come," says Gagnon.
Pope John Paul II was the last Roman Catholic pope to visit Canada, stopping in Winnipeg in 1984 as part of a longer visit. Bad weather prevented a scheduled stop in Fort Simpson, so he returned three years later. He also visited Toronto in 2002 for World Youth Day.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.
Updated on Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 4:10 PM CDT: added photo