Church Apologies and Reconciliation (58-61): Current Problems

Pope Francis apology


September 24, 2021


Catholic Church

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops open letter of apology to Indigenous people

Global News – In an open letter, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) expressed their “profound remorse” for their participation in the system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages and culture. “We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual,” the letter reads… the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our profound remorse and apologize unequivocally. The CCCB pledges to work with the Holy See and our Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada as part of this healing journey.

https://www.cccb.ca/letter/statement-of-apology-by-the-catholic-bishops-of-canada-to-the-indigenous-peoples-of-this-land/


November 10, 2021


Catholic Church

Indigenous Delegation to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – announce that 25-30 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican from December 17-20, 2021, accompanied by a small group of Canadian Bishops. The delegation has been planned through ongoing dialogue with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and other Indigenous leader…Representatives from the Vatican have confirmed that the Holy Father will participate in private meetings with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis delegates respectively to hear their personal stories of the lasting legacy of residential schools.

Delegates will also have the opportunity to speak with the Holy Father about their hopes and expectations for his eventual pilgrimage to Canada. Centred around the principles of mutual trust, respect, and a shared desire to move forward for a more hopeful future, the Canadian Bishops and Indigenous Partners have agreed upon the theme, “Indigenous Peoples and the Church: Walking Together Toward Healing and Reconciliation”.


May 2, 2018


Catholic Church

Parliament calls on Pope Francis to apologize and for Church to resume fund raising efforts

Toronto Star – Parliament of Canada votes 269 to 10 across all party lines to call on Pope Francis to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the Indigenous Residential School system and also to call on the Catholic Church to “resume best efforts” to raise funds as agreed in the 2006 settlement deal between residential school students, religious groups that ran the schools and the federal government. The motion also asked Catholic entities to make “consistent and sustained “efforts to provide documents from the schools to former students who want them.


July 28, 2022


Catholic Church

Pope Francis acknowledges ‘sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people’ for first time on Canadian trip

QUEBEC CITY—On his second-last day in Canada, Pope Francis for the first time acknowledged the “sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people” committed by members of the Catholic Church in residential schools.

Speaking during an evening prayer session with Catholic cardinals, bishops and other members of the clergy, the Pope said that the church must not allow itself to take advantage of others — including those of different faiths, cultures or languages.

Pope Francis presides over an evening prayer service Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec on Wednesday.

“Thinking about the process of healing and reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters, never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others,” Francis said at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec.

This was the first meeting in his six-day trip to Canada that was dedicated solely to the Catholics — all others were aimed at apologizing to and seeking reconciliation with Indigenous people, particular survivors of residential schools.

Pope Francis presides over a mass at the National Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupre, Thursday, July 28, 2022, in Saint Anne de Beaupre, Quebec. Pope Francis is on a "penitential" six-day visit to Canada to beg forgiveness from survivors of the country's residential schools, where Catholic missionaries contributed to the "cultural genocide" of generations of Indigenous children by trying to stamp out their languages, cultures and traditions.

The Pope’s instructions were clear to his fellow faith leaders: that the Catholic Church in Canada should seek as its model Saint François de Laval, first bishop of Quebec from 1658 to 1674, “who railed against those who demeaned the Indigenous people by inducing them to imbibe strong drink in order to cheat them.”

“Let us not allow any ideology to alienate or mislead the customs and ways of life of our peoples as a means of subduing them or controlling them,” Francis said.

If the Pope’s words were yet another small step in the direction of the apology that was expected by Indigenous leaders and demanded by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, they remained inadequate for others.

Earlier Thursday, at the start of the mass at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, a pilgrimage site near Quebec City, protesters unfurled a banner in front of the altar that read, “Rescind the doctrine,” a reference to the Doctrine of Discovery, which is based on 15th-century papal edicts that gave explorers permission to take land away from non-Christians. Many Indigenous leaders have called on Francis to formally renounce the policy.

Pope Francis expressed shame and sorrow for the role Catholic institutions played in the “deplorable” residential school system, promising the church would help promote the Indigenous cultures the schools tried to erase. Speaking at Quebec City’s historic Citadelle, Francis asked forgiveness for the harm done by the policies of assimilation carried out in the schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

“We came today to represent our family and First Nation, the Batchewana First Nation in northern Ontario, and our survivors and our family, especially a current survivor, Aunt Mary,” said Chelsea Brunelle, who unfurled the banner with her cousin, Sarain Fox.

“We were told to stop. We were told we couldn’t put the sign up, but we have the right to protest and we did it anyways, and we were successful,” she told the Star. 

“Reconciliation is about action, and this is some kind of action that we can do today, whereas the Pope’s was more of a statement and we would like to see more action,” Brunelle said outside the basilica in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

Francis has apologized for the actions of “some” Catholic clergy and for the actions of members of “local Catholic organizations” but not for the actions of the Catholic Church as an institution.

Pope Francis arrives at the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Quebec, Canada, where he will celebrate Mass on Thursday.

This has disappointed some Indigenous people and enraged others, including Murray Sinclair, the former judge and senator who acted as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into residential schools.

At the Thursday morning mass, Francis called on Indigenous people not to lose their Catholic faith.

“At such times … we must be attentive to the temptation to flee,” he told 1,400 congregants, among them Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier François Legault and former Liberal prime ministers Paul Martin and Jean Chrétien.

To those Catholics who find themselves “confused and disappointed before the scandal of evil,” he said, “there is but one path, a sole way: it is the way of Jesus.

“Let us go out to meet him,” he added.

The majority of those in the pews of the pilgrimage site were Indigenous people and residential school survivors. Many of them were dressed in orange to represent the Every Child Matters movement — remembering the children lost in those schools and the survivors.

Pope Francis leaves the Citadelle in his popemobile following a reconciliation ceremony on Wednesday.

Some attendees were wearing floral scarves, and elders in wheelchairs sat in a section to the left near the stage.

It was clear that the apology and the murky legacy of the church’s history in Canada remained top of mind.

(Occasionally, it seemed almost subliminal. In the midst of Pope Francis’s homily, in which he spoke of the “scandal of evil” that has caused Catholics to question their faith, a cellphone also rang out with the words “I hate you,” as it played a clip from the Garrett Nash song, “I hate u, I love u.”)

Upon his arrival in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Trudeau repeated to a CBC reporter what has become a common refrain in recent days, that many Indigenous leaders appreciated the Pope’s historic apology — delivered on the Prairies three days earlier — but hoped it would go further.

Many Indigenous leaders have called for concrete action to follow the apology, such as releasing more historical records about residential schools, returning sacred artifacts or renouncing the doctrine.

Trudeau also spoke to the meaning of this visit for non-Indigenous Canadians.

“When the residential schools were teaching young Indigenous children that they didn’t have any identity or value, or language, well, the fact is, schools across the country were teaching non-Indigenous children the same thing,” he said.

“So that legacy of a lack of respect and removing the dignity of the Indigenous peoples, obviously, that is rooted in our society.”

With files from The Canadian Press

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of a residential school experience. Support is available at 1-866-925-4419.


October 27, 2021


Catholic Church

Pope Francis agrees to make an “apostolic journey to Canada”

CBC – The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops announced that Pope Francis had accepted their invitation to make “an apostolic journey to Canada “also in the context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.” Rev. Raymond Poisson, CCCB president.

“We pray that Pope Francis’ visit to Canada will be a significant milestone in the journey toward reconciliation and healing.”


July 1, 2021


Catholic Church

Pope Francis agrees to meet Indigenous representatives

Associated Press – “Pope Francis has agreed to meet with Indigenous survivors of Canada’s notorious residential schools amid calls for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse and death of thousands of native children.”


April 1, 2022


Catholic Church

Pope Francis offers a partial apology

Pope Francis apologized to the delegation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit residential school survivors who travelled to Rome for meetings at the Vatican. The apology , however, was “For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness”. Not the role of the Catholic Church itself but individuals members of the church.

During their last in-person meeting with Pope Francis, First Nations, Inuit and Métis members of the delegation to Vatican City heard the words they were seeking, “I am sorry.”

In the hour-long meeting before the delegation returns home to cities and communities across Canada, Pope Francis, reading from prepared notes, reviewed what he had heard from each of the parties over several days in Rome including the effects of “intergenerational trauma.” “All of this made me feel two things very strongly, indignation and shame,” said the Pope through a translator. “Indignation because It is not right to accept evil and worse, to grow accustomed to evil as it was an inevitable part of the historical process.

“No, without real indignation without historical memory and without a commitment to learning from past mistakes, problems remain unresolved and keep coming back. The memory of the past must never be sacrificed at the alter of alleged progress.”

He continued: “I also feel shame … sorrow and shame for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, and the abuses you suffered and the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values. “For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.”


March 28, 2018


Catholic Church

Pope Francis refuse to apologize

Refusal of Pope Francis to apologize for the role in operating and managing up to 60% of the Residential schools in Canada. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the pope could not “personally” apologize.“ The Catholic Church is the only church that has not formally apologized to the survivors. Perry Bellegarde, National Chief for the AFN, Dec. 16, 2015”


June 7, 2021


Catholic Church

Pope Francis response to discovery of unmarked graves at Kamloops IRS

Toronto Star – “In a speech Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, and in a statement posted on Twitter, Pope Francis addressed the news that the remains of 215 children had been found at a former residential school site in Kamloops, B.C. expressing his ‘closeness to the Canadian People who had been traumatized by (the) shocking discovery…His speech was met with anger and criticism on social media from Canadian politicians, Indigenous leaders and others.

The archbishop of Toronto indicted that one reason for the lack of an apology is that “each diocese is independent and responsible for its own actions, and that approximately 16 out of 70 Roman Catholic dioceses in Canada were associated with the former residential schools


July 30, 2022


Catholic Church

Pope says Indigenous people suffered genocide at residential schools

Toronto Star: ROME – Pope Francis says the abuses Indigenous Peoples faced while being forced to attend residential schools amounted to genocide. The pontiff made the comment Friday to reporters on his flight from Iqaluit back to Rome following his six-day tour of Canada.

Francis apologized multiple times throughout the week for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the institutions. He begged for forgiveness for abuses committed by some members of the church as well as for cultural destruction and forced assimilation.

Some Indigenous people said they were disappointed that during his visit the Pope did not name the crimes and abuses that students and survivors faced. They also criticized him for not using the term genocide.

When asked if he would use the word genocide and accept that members of the church participated in genocide, Francis said yes. The Pope said he didn’t think to use the word genocide during his trip, calling it a technical term.

“I asked for forgiveness for what has been done, which was genocide, and I did condemn this,” he said in Spanish through a translator.  Francis said instead of using the word genocide he described the attempts at destroying Indigenous Peoples through assimilation and colonization. “To take away children, to change the culture, their mindset, their traditions — to change a race, an entire culture … yes I (do) use the word genocide.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission referred to residential schools as a form of cultural genocide when it released its final report in 2015. But since then a number of Indigenous groups have amended this to say it was genocide. 

Leah Gazan, an Manitoba NDP member of Parliament, tabled a motion in the House of Commons last year calling on the federal government to recognize what happened at residential schools as a genocide, but it did not gain unanimous consent. 

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls concluded in its final report that violence against women and girls is a form of genocide. The effects of residential schools were the subject of many testimonies from families and survivors. 

Neglect and physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the schools, and the Catholic Church ran 60 per cent of the institutions. Throughout his Canadian visit, Francis expressed sorrow, indignation and shame. 

“In the face of this deplorable evil, the church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous Peoples,” he said Monday to a group of residential school survivors and their families gathered in Maskwacis, Alta.

Throughout his stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut, the Pope was met with messages urging him to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, papal bulls or official declarations that were developed to justify the colonization of the Americas. The doctrine was connected to thinking that lands being colonized were empty, when in fact they were home to Indigenous Peoples.  Some Indigenous academics say the doctrine underlies all the policies that came after it. Indigenous leaders have been calling for decades for it to be rescinded and the messaging ramped up before and during the Pope’s visit. 

Many said they were disappointed it was not part of the Pope’s apologies.

He was asked on the plane Friday if he thought it was a missed opportunity to provide a concrete action toward reconciliation. “Colonization is bad. It’s unfair and even today it’s used. Perhaps with silk and gloves, but it is used all the same,” he said.

“Let us be aware that colonization is not over. The same colonization is there today as well.”

Vatican officials have said a statement on the matter is to come.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, who helped organize the papal trip, said in a statement that the bishops plan to work with the Vatican to have it addressed.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 30, 2022.


June 24, 2022


Catholic Church, Fed. Govt.

Pope to visit former residential school

Toronto Star – The program for Pope Francis’s trip to Canada next month includes a visit to the site of a former Alberta residential school with survivors, the Vatican said Thursday. The papal visit is set to start in Edmonton on July 24 and end in Iqaluit on July 29. It is to include public and private events with an emphasis on Indigenous participation.

“We pray this pilgrimage will serve as another meaningful step in the long journey of healing, reconciliation and hope,” said Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, the general coordinator of the papal visit to Canada.

Pope Francis is expected to deliver an apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools during the journey to Canada. On April 1, after meetings over several days with First Nations, Inuit and Métis groups at the Vatican, the Pope apologized for the deplorable conduct of church members involved in residential schools.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Edmonton on July 24 to a brief ceremony at the airport. The next day he is set to join survivors at the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis south of the city.

Gilda Soosay, a member of Samson Cree Nation, is calling the Pope’s visit to Maskwacis a “miraculous event” for her people. “It’s a step forward to the path of healing for the Indigenous people. … We have to look forward to what’s coming for our people, our grandchildren and the children coming after that,” said Soosay, who is part of the church committee in Maskwacis preparing for the pope’s visit. “We need to begin a healing process for our people here in Maskwacis.”

Ermineskin was one of the largest institutions in Canada. Smith said it “will have a representative role for all residential schools.” He anticipates the apology will come in front of survivors at the school.

Francis is also scheduled to visit Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, an Indigenous church in downtown Edmonton, on July 25. The church was recently restored after a significant fire in 2020.

Fernie Marty, an elder originally from Cold Lake, Alta., said he is filled with excitement and nervousness at meeting Pope Francis. “We have a unique history happening here. It’s important for my own personal healing to continue,” said Marty, who is a day school survivor and works at Sacred Heart Church.

The following day, Francis is scheduled to attend a mass at Commonwealth Stadium, home of the Edmonton Elks CFL team, which can hold about 65,000 people. The pontiff is to go to Lac Ste. Anne that evening where a large pilgrimage takes place each year.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said that due to the 85-year-old Pope’s advanced age and limitations, Francis will take part in public events for about one hour.

The Pope is next scheduled to travel to Quebec City on July 27, where he is to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Gen. Mary Simon. He is to have private meetings at La Citadelle and later deliver a public address. The pontiff is then scheduled to travel to Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré on July 28 for a mass at the shrine there. Between 10,000 and 15,000 guests are anticipated to attend.

The Canadian bishops said the public is also invited to a dedicated area during the Quebec City leg of the journey to watch the papal events on large screens and take part in Indigenous cultural events.

Francis is scheduled to meet with Indigenous leaders from Eastern Canada on July 29 before flying to Iqaluit. There, Francis will have a private meeting with residential school survivors before attending a public community event.

The Pope’s priority during the visit is the relationship with Indigenous Peoples, Smith said, adding the pontiff has heard the cry for reconciliation and the longing for hope. “This is one step in the journey,” Smith said. “But it’s a huge step that has enormous positive possibilities associated with it in moving this relationship forward in a good way.”

The program’s release comes as some worried the pontiff’s health may delay the journey to Canada.

It’s a step forward to the path of healing for the Indigenous people. … We have to look forward to what’s coming for our people, our grandchildren and the children coming after that.


July 26, 2022


Catholic Church

Pope’s apology doesn’t acknowledge church’s role as ‘co-author’ of dark chapter: Murray Sinclair

Former senator Murray Sinclair was the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from 2009 to 2015. He says the apology the Pope delivered Monday for the role Catholics played in Canada’s residential school system was lacking. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

CBC: The former Manitoba senator who chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada says there’s a “deep hole” in the apology issued by Pope Francis Monday for the role Catholics played in Canada’s residential school system.

Murray Sinclair says the historic apology, although meaningful to many residential school survivors and their families, fell short of Call to Action 58 in the final report. 

It specifically called on the Pope to issue an apology “for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

In a written statement Tuesday, Sinclair said the intent was that survivors would not only hear remorse, “but an acceptance of responsibility for what they were put through at the hands of the church and other institutions.”

While he called it a “historic apology,” he said the Pope’s statement “has left a deep hole in the acknowledgement of the full role of the church in the residential school system, by placing blame on individual members of the church.”

Pope Francis delivered the apology Monday in Alberta at the site of the former Ermineskin residential school, one of the largest in Canada, as he started what he called his “penitential pilgrimage.”

Pope Francis bows his head during a service at the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton on Monday as part of his papal visit across Canada. He apologized for the role of many Christians in residential schools, which doesn’t go far enough, says Sinclair. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

“I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,” he said.

Sinclair said it’s important to highlight that the Catholic Church was not just an agent of the state, but “a lead co-author of the darkest chapters in the history of the land.”

Sinclair says Catholic leaders who were driven by the Doctrine of Discovery — a 15th-century papal edict that justified colonial expansion by allowing Europeans to claim Indigenous lands as their own — as well as other church beliefs and policies enabled the government of Canada, and pushed it further in its work to commit what the TRC called the cultural genocide carried out on Indigenous people in Canada.

That was often “not just a collaboration, but an instigation,” he said.

“There are clear examples in our history where the church called for the government of Canada to be more aggressive and bold in its work to destroy Indigenous culture, traditional practices and beliefs,” Sinclair’s statement said.

“It was more than the work of a few bad actors — this was a concerted institutional effort to remove children from their families and cultures, all in the name of Christian supremacy.”

Time for action

Sinclair says reconciliation requires action, and the Catholic Church must work to assist in restoring culture, beliefs and traditions destroyed through assimilation.

“For the children and descendants of survivors, it is not enough that you have stopped abusing them,” he said. Rather, the church must help them recover, and “as well as commit to never doing this again.”

Students and staff at the Fort Alexander residential school are shown in an archival photo. Sinclair says there are clear examples in Canadian history where the Church called for the government of Canada to be more aggressive in its work to destroy Indigenous culture, traditional practices and beliefs. (National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation archives)

The Pope will continue his pilgrimage throughout the week to meet with First Nations, Métis and Inuit survivors in Quebec and Nunavut. Sinclair hopes the pontiff will take his words to heart.

“There is a better path that the church — and all Canadians — can indeed follow: taking responsibility for past actions and resolving to do better on this journey of reconciliation.”


Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.


July 30, 2022


Catholic Church

Why Pope Francis may be hesitant to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery

CBC: Pope Francis’s apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Indigenous residential schools in Canada has raised questions about whether he would formally rescind the church’s Doctrine of Discovery.

The doctrine, dating back to the 15th century, included a series of edicts known as papal bulls, that were later used to justify colonizing Indigenous lands.

But any hesitation by the Pope to renounce it may stem from the Vatican’s view that the church has already done away with and replaced those edicts, some observers suggest.

“In some sense, from the church’s point of view, it doesn’t need to be rescinded because it is, in fact, abrogated,” said Darren Dias, a theology professor at St. Michael’s College in Toronto. “It has no standing.”

On May 4, 1493, Pope Alexander VI issued the papal bull known as “Inter Caetera” that provided Portugal and Spain the religious backing to expand their territories in Africa and the Americas for the sake of spreading Christianity. The papal bull said that land not inhabited by Christians could be claimed, while “barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself.” 

While the doctrine justified the colonization, conversion and enslavement of Indigenous peoples, and the seizure of their lands, scholars say it also laid the foundation for Canada’s claim to land and the Indian Act, which laid the groundwork for residential schools.

Dias says other edicts soon replaced the Doctrine of Discovery. For example, by 1537, Pope Paul III had issued his own decree that opposed the enslavement of Indigenous peoples. He wrote that they should “by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ.”

Despite that, churches kept colonizing and forcibly evangelizing, Dias said.

‘Circumstances have changed’

The Vatican did address the doctrine in a statement to the United Nations Ninth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in April 2010. The doctrine, the Vatican argued, had been abrogated as early as 1494 and that “circumstances have changed so much that to attribute any juridical value to such a document seems completely out of place.”

The Doctrine of Discovery had also been abrogated by other papal bulls, encyclicals, statements and decrees, it said. “The bull Inter Caetera is a historic remnant with no juridical, moral or doctrinal value,” the statement said. “The Holy See confirms that Inter Caetera has already been abrogated and considers it without any legal or doctrinal value.” 

However, there continue to be calls for an official renouncement, not only from the Indigenous community, but  from some members of the Catholic Church.

An umbrella organization of U.S. female Catholic religious orders, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, formally asked Francis to do so in 2014, saying he should repudiate “the period of Christian history that used religion to justify political and personal violence against Indigenous nations and peoples.”

Massimo Faggioli, a professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University, said he was surprised Pope Francis’s team wasn’t better prepared for this issue. Because they knew that this issue was what was coming up,” he said.

As for an official rescinding of the doctrine, Faggioli noted that the church doesn’t issue formal documents that declare past edicts are no longer valid.  “In the Catholic Church, there is no formal mechanism for rescinding a past teaching,” he said. Instead, the Catholic Church will focus on “teaching something new that’s different from what was taught before.”

Protesters urge Pope to rescind Doctrine of Discovery during mass near Quebec City

The Doctrine of Discovery: Its effects are still being felt, but only the Pope can rescind it

Dias agrees that, traditionally, popes don’t rescind. Instead, “a [new] teaching replaces the old teaching. This is certainly what’s happened with the Doctrine of Discovery,” he said. 

In an email to CBC News, Jonathan Lesarge, a spokesman for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, echoed that the Vatican has previously clarified that the papal bulls associated with the Doctrine of Discovery have no legal or moral authority in the Church. “However, we understand the desire to name these texts, acknowledge their impact and renounce the concepts associated with them,” he said.

“The Bishops of Canada are working with the Vatican and those who have studied this issue, with the goal of issuing a new statement from the Church.” 

Meanwhile, Matteo Bruni, the director of the Vatican press office, at a briefing just days before the Canada visit, acknowledged that “a reflection is underway in the Holy See on the doctrine of discovery,” according to America magazine.

But Steve Newcomb, an Indigenous scholar who has spent much of his career studying the Doctrine of Discovery, says he believes the Pope’s potential hesitation to rescind the doctrine comes from his reluctance to remind the world of the type of language used by his predecessors.  “[They] issued language of that sort that has had a destructive, devastating impact for centuries on all of our original nations and peoples,” Newcomb said.

“Because what it does is it rips the veneer off the Vatican to reveal the true nature of the institution,” he said. 

Newcomb also suggested subsequent edicts released by the church following the papal bulls of 1493 had little impact, and that the original doctrine of discovery served for decades as the basis of “the most horrific genocidal acts against the original nation.”

Protesters urge Pope to rescind Doctrine of Discovery during mass near Quebec City

Pope faces calls to renounce the Doctrine of Discovery at the heart of colonialism

He said, despite its statement to the UN in 2010, the Vatican continues to try to evade responsibility for the doctrine. “They have never publicly acknowledged what’s in those documents.They simply want to refer to the titles of the documents, but not the substance.”


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