The Pope in the Arctic for the last leg of his “penitential trip” to Canada


The pope is heading to the Arctic on Friday for the last leg of his trip to Canada to meet the Inuit, who in turn are waiting for an apology for the residential schools but also hoping for strong words on “sexual abuse”.

The 85-year-old pontiff will make a final speech in the morning in Quebec City before flying to Iqaluit, capital and largest city in the territory of Nunavut.

In this place of the Arctic archipelago accessible only by plane, whose name means "place of fish", live just over 7.000 people, mainly indigenous people.

In the streets of Iqaluit, made of small colored houses perched on cliffs that flow into the sea, the first stages of the pope's "penitential" journey have been scrutinized by the inhabitants.

On the spot, he will meet former indigenous boarders in a school in the city, to whom he will address during his last speech.

“I am very relieved by what happened, by the apologies”, confides Karol Mablick, 17, who admits all the same feeling a “mixture of emotions”.

"It won't solve anything, but an apology in front of the whole world means a lot to us," said Elisapee Nooshoota, 36, a stay-at-home mom.

The pope's request for "pardon for the evil" made to the native peoples pronounced Monday by the pope in Alberta (west) near a former boarding school, symbol of decades of forced assimilation imposed on the first peoples of the country, have been hailed as "historic" .

Although many aboriginals point out that there is still a long way to go and that this is only the first step in a long process of healing.

"They should do more, by setting up therapies, mental health care centers," said Israel Mablick, 43, who went through one of these boarding schools.

Between the end of the 1990th century and the 150.000s, some 130 Inuit, Métis or First Nations people were forcibly enrolled in more than XNUMX of these institutions, cut off from their families, their language and their culture.

Many suffered physical or sexual abuse, and thousands never recovered, victims of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

Intervention of the pope

But in Iqaluit, many are also waiting for specific answers from the pope about Father Johannes Rivoire, who for many has become a symbol of the impunity of sexual aggressors protected by the Church.

This French priest, who spent three decades in the great Canadian north, is the subject of an arrest warrant but he has so far never been worried. He left Canada in 1993 and lives in France, in Lyon.

For Kilikvak Kabloona, president of the Nunavut Tunngavik organization which represents the Inuit of Nunavut, "the pope's apology was not complete".

"They did not take into account sexual abuse and did not recognize the institutional role of the Catholic Church in the protection of abusers, this protection allows sexual violence to thrive", she believes.

“We would like Rivoire to be extradited to Canada to face his charges in court and we have asked the pope to intervene to ask him to return to Canada,” she added.

The spiritual leader of the 1,3 billion Catholics, who traveled to western Canada and then to Quebec on this trip, uses a wheelchair due to pain in his right knee.

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

Image credit: / a katz

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Summary of news from March 30, 2023

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