My Special this week in the interview segment is about the just-published Apostolic Exhortation “Praedicate Evangelium,” (Preach The Gospel) by Pope Francis. Nine years in the making, this document focuses on the reform of the Roman Curia, the Vatican-based central government of the Catholic Church. It was published March 19th with absolutely no fanfare or pre-announcement and only in Italian. We await news of the other major language translations.

I look at some of the unusual features of the constitution and its presentation, and review some of the questions that surfaced with what seemed to be its hasty publication. In addition, I dissect it to explain all the changes that will take place in the Roman Curia. It goes into effect on Pentecost, June 5, 2022.

The last such constitution, Pastor Bonus, was written by Pope John Paul in 1988.

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Pope Francis ended his busy Friday morning with a long-awaited, moving and also extremely colorful audience with Canadian indigenous peoples including Métis, Inuit and First Nations.

The importance of this audience cannot be stressed enough, although it seems an Act II will be played out in Canada with a future papal trip, very likely this summer.

By way of review, you might recall that, during the Angelus on June 6, 2020, the Pontiff shared his dismay with the world over the dramatic news, which had arrived a few weeks earlier, of the discovery in Canada of a mass grave in the Kamloops Indian Residential School with human remains of over 200 indigenous Canadians. A macabre discovery, a symbol of a past of residential cruelty in the country when, from 1880 to the last decades of the 20th century, in institutions financed by the government and managed mostly by Christian organizations, the aim was to educate and convert indigenous young people and to assimilate them. in traditional Canadian society, through systematic abuse.

Canada’s bishops have since created a series of projects to support indigenous communities in a process of reconciliation whose apex was this week’s meetings of the Pope with three of those communities.

Friday, representatives of each delegation prayed and spoke in their native languages and, after the papal talk, danced, played drums and violins and sang in their native languages.

Eye-catching, bright-colored native dress and headdresses filled the Clementine Hall with a vibrancy rarely seen in these hallowed rooms of the Apostolic Palace.

One could feel the emotions of the Inuits, Métis and First Nations people as they prayed, danced and sang, as they listened to the Holy Father and, towards the end, as they presented him with gifts.

Numerous gifts, in fact, were presented to the Pope including snow shoes, stoles and a cross made of whale bone on silver in a sealskin pouch. He in turn gifted each group with specially boxed bronze olive branch sculptures, a sign of peace and reconciliation. (Vatican media photos)

Snow shoes:

In his talk, the Pope expressed his sorrow for past maltreatment of indigenous by Catholics and asked the Lord for forgiveness. He told the indigenous and the bishops who accompanied them he will be travelling to Canada, but “not in winter” to meet them again.

Pope Francis’ complete talk translated into English can be found here: Like branches of a tree – L’Osservatore Romano

Pope Francis began by noting how, over past days, “I have listened attentively to your testimonies. I have brought them to my thoughts and prayers, and reflected on the stories you told and the situations you described. I thank you for having opened your hearts to me, and for expressing, by means of this visit, your desire for us to journey together.”

He then gave an overview of “a few of the many things that have struck me,” including an indigenous saying: “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation”. These are wise words, farsighted and the exact opposite of what often happens in our own day, when we run after practical and immediate goals without thinking of the future and generations yet to come. For the ties that connect the elderly and the young are essential.”

Francis spoke of how “you compared yourselves to the branches of a tree. Like those branches, you have spread in different directions, you have experienced various times and seasons, and you have been buffeted by powerful winds. Yet you have remained solidly anchored to your roots, which you kept strong.”

Meditating on those roots, the Pope returned to the image of a tree, saying, “yet that tree, rich in fruit, has experienced a tragedy that you described to me in these past days: the tragedy of being uprooted. The chain that passed on knowledge and ways of life in union with the land was broken by a colonization that lacked respect for you, tore many of you from your vital milieu and tried to conform you to another mentality. In this way, great harm was done to your identity and your culture, many families were separated, and great numbers of children fell victim to these attempts to impose a uniformity based on the notion that progress occurs through ideological colonization, following programs devised in offices rather than the desire to respect the life of peoples. This is something that, unfortunately, and at various levels, still happens today: ideological colonization.”

“Listening to your voices,” continued Francis, “I was able to enter into and be deeply grieved by the stories of the suffering, hardship, discrimination and various forms of abuse that some of you experienced, particularly in the residential schools. It is chilling to think of determined efforts to instil a sense of inferiority, to rob people of their cultural identity, to sever their roots, and to consider all the personal and social effects that this continues to entail: unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas.

The Pope said with sorrow, “All this has made me feel two things very strongly: indignation and shame. Indignation, because it is not right to accept evil and, even worse, to grow accustomed to evil, as if it were an inevitable part of the historical process. No! … The memory of the past must never be sacrificed at the altar of alleged progress.”

“I also feel shame,” explained the Pope. “I have said this to you and now I say it again. I 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, in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values. All these things are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“For the deplorable conduct of those 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. Clearly, the content of the faith cannot be transmitted in a way contrary to the faith itself: Jesus taught us to welcome, love, serve and not judge; it is a frightening thing when, precisely in the name of the faith, counter-witness is rendered to the Gospel.”

The Holy Father also said he thinks “with gratitude of all those good and decent believers who, in the name of the faith, and with respect, love and kindness, have enriched your history with the Gospel. I think with joy, for example, of the great veneration that many of you have for Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. This year I would like to be with you on those days. Today we need to re-establish the covenant between grandparents and grandchildren, between the elderly and the young, for this is a fundamental prerequisite for the growth of unity in our human family.”

Francis concluded by saying, “I have been enriched by your words and even more by your testimonies. You have brought here, to Rome, a living sense of your communities. I will be happy to benefit again from meeting you when I visit your native lands, where your families live. I won’t come in the winter! So I will close by saying “Until we meet again” in Canada, where I will be able better to express to you my closeness. In the meantime, I assure you of my prayers, and upon you, your families and your communities I invoke the blessing of the Creator.”

He closed by addressing everyone in English: “I thank all of you! Blessing of the Holy Father God bless you all – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Pray for me, don’t forget! I’ll pray for you. Thank you very much for your visit. Bye bye!”