On July 24, 2022, Pope Francis arrived in Canada for what was described in his own words as a “penitential pilgrimage.” It was a six-day sojourn—longer than any single-country visit Pope Francis had made save for his first visit to Brazil for World Youth Day in July 2013. It is interesting to note that what Pope Francis said while in Canada was not notably different than what he said in Rome in April 2022 after spending several days in lengthy dialogue with Canada’s Indigenous leaders. Factually, the apologies he offered, both in Rome and in Canada, were more measured and less detailed than dozens of earlier apologies from Canadian religious orders and bishops dating back more than 30 years.
In April and May 2022, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, came and made a similar five-day residential schools apology visit, and the general media hardly took notice. Yet with Pope Francis, we saw how the power of papal presence is an undeniable reality—and not just for Catholics. Even we Pentecostals were talking about it!
The Pope’s visit was full of tensions, both because of what was said and what wasn’t. Some felt the apology was genuine and appropriate, while others remarked that not enough was said. So there was a mix of welcome reception and protest. When critiquing an apology, however, it is important to be mindful that an apology is primarily for those who were offended directly. There are residential school survivors still among us; so, first and foremost, this apology was for them alone to determine its full worth.
“Truth and Reconciliation” has been the primary moniker under which the residential schools’ legacy has been addressed here in Canada. The Pope came representing the Catholic Church in a measured, humble posture to listen, to learn, and to apologize. In response, an Indigenous Elder was quoted as saying, “Apologies are cheap … unless accompanied by action.” As believers in Christ here in Canada, what postures of action are we taking?
Second Corinthians 5:18-20 speaks of how we are reconciled to God through Christ and that we have now been given the ministry of reconciliation, representing Christ as though God Himself were making His appeal through us. If anyone should have a handle on “Truth and Reconciliation,” it should be the body of Christ.
Within the Canadian Indigenous context, how you get somewhere is as crucial as where you are going. The journey is just as important as the destination. Yet, in our Euro-Canadian-led society, we often look to expedite the process to get to the finished product more quickly. Consequently, our relationships with one another can tend to be transactional rather than transformational. Jesus Christ called us to something more when He declared in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
True reconciliation (transformational relationships) happens only when shared truth is experienced with shared grace through a shared journey. Miyo-wāhkōhtowin is a Plains Cree expression that speaks of being in good relationship with both Creator and creation. It infers that wholeness is to exist within all of our relationships—a very biblical concept. As a result of our nation’s collectively raised consciousness concerning Indigenous realities (both historic and present), many of our churches are asking, “What can we tangibly do in response?”
For that purpose, the Miyo-wāhkōhtowin Journey is a ministry initiative under Mission Canada providing tangible opportunities for our churches (both Indigenous and non-Indigenous) to journey together. More than simply “big brother” looking after “little brother,” this is an invitation for churches to partner in equal relationship, knowing that we are better together.
This co-operative journey is about developing in-person relationships and maintaining consistent contact for the purpose of prayer, encouragement, and being open to provide complementary ministry expressions with one another. This is not a transactional endeavour, but rather a transformative one. Small and large churches alike are invited to walk this journey together. If this is something you’d like your church to participate in, let’s connect. You can reach me, Dan Collado, at firstname.lastname@example.org, for more details.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
An Indigenous believer recently remarked, “Healing is a slow process, and adding to the wounds will do nothing but slow it down and harm the body of Christ. Healing might be a solo and varying endeavour, but reconciliation is a two-way street.”
In 2021, the Government of Canada instituted September 30 to be annually recognized as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is an opportunity for our Fellowship, for the church, and for the Christian community at large to take time to remember and lament the tragic legacy of the residential school system and the children who never returned home.
But just as Christ did not simply convey truth, but truth and grace, annually on this recognized day we have opportunity to champion not only truth but reconciliation as well. Would you pray for the Indigenous Peoples of Canada? And pray also that we all would actively seek God concerning the ministry of reconciliation that our Lord has bestowed upon all of us.
A variety of helpful resources—videos, podcasts, articles, and interviews—are available on the PAOC website in the Ministry Toolbox (https://paoc.org/ministry-toolbox) to assist your efforts. May we as a Fellowship and as lovers of Jesus seek the Lord in becoming reconcilers and agents of healing.
Dan Collado is the Mission Canada Indigenous Peoples priority co-ordinator and gives leadership to the Indigenous Guiding Group. Dan has also been the academic director for the Aboriginal Bible Academy since 2009. Together with his wife, Belinda, they have been serving in full-time ministry since 1993.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2023 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2023 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © istockphoto.com.