As Pope Francis prepared to celebrate mass inside a Canadian shrine in his robes on Thursday, a young indigenous woman stood outside in a bright orange beaded dress studded with dozens of tiny metal cones.
Abigail Brooks is a jingle dress dancer – an indigenous woman whose dancing in traditional dress is believed to have healing powers.
“It’s very important to be here, especially to offer strength in my jingle dress, and any emotional and traditional support that I have,” the 23-year-old told AFP outside Saint-en-de-Beaupre. Our survivors and elders will need it.” Along the St. Lawrence River in Quebec in eastern Canada.
Thousands of people, mainly locals, gathered there to see the Pope. Nearby, volunteers burned sage leaves before blowing smoke from feathers, a traditional ritual to heal psychological trauma. A healer recited a mantra and held a woman’s arm, while a tear rolled down her cheek.
Healing has been a central theme of the pope’s visit to Canada this week, where he apologized to the country’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit people for decades of abuse at Catholic-run schools.
For nearly a century, until the 1990s, the Canadian government sent about 150,000 indigenous children to church-run residential schools, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture.
The aim was to destroy their local identity. On top of the trauma of separation, many children suffered physical and sexual abuse, and thousands are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.
This trauma is generational. The papal pardon has, for many, been overwhelming.
“It’s been a shared experience of release of emotions,” Voukason, 19, told AFP in Saint-en-de-Beaupre, “a lot of tears, you know, a lot of anger, but… a lot of love. It’s beautiful.” Is.”
“The truth is unfolding with all the accumulated suffering. Everyone has lived too long with shame,” said Ghislaine Picard, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec Labrador.
But for many, including Brooks, the apology is “not enough.”
He said that nothing was said about sexual abuse. “We cannot accept reconciliation until he accepts it.”
Later on Thursday, the pope used the words “sexual abuse” publicly for the first time on his trip – but he referred to the abuse of “minors and vulnerable people” by members of the Catholic Church in Canada at large. , without mentioning local children. Especially
Brooks also called for indigenous people to be allowed access to records of what happened in the schools, and for the pope to return indigenous artifacts currently held by the Vatican Museums.
“It’s going to be a part of reconciliation, to give us back what’s ours,” Brooks says.
‘It won’t fix me’
The young dancer is not alone in her demands. Time and again, locals have made it clear that they see the Pope’s visit as just the beginning.
In one of the most dramatic scenes of his trip so far, as the pope began mass in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre on Wednesday, protesters unfurled a banner right in front of the altar he stood behind. was
It read, “Abrogate the Doctrine”—referring to the Doctrine of the Inquisition, a 15th-century papal edict that authorized European powers to colonize non-Christian lands and peoples, deemed non-human. was seen
Local leaders have drawn a straight line between faith and the creation of residential schools over the centuries. Wherever the Pope has gone in Canada, there have been calls for his removal.
The writing on the banner was faced by the Pope, and was quietly removed shortly afterwards.
Francis has yet to make any public mention of the doctrine or model on his trip, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday he had raised them with the pope.
Trudeau did not provide further details, and while the pope spoke of his “deep shame” and his “firm desire” to respond to local suffering, it was unclear what further steps he might take.
For some, there may be no way around the disaster.
A school survivor, Jimmy Papetti, 58, tearfully spoke to AFP.
“I’ve lived my whole life in fear because of what I experienced at residential school,” she said by telephone from her home in Quebec.
“I’m sure I’ll never be well… The Pope’s visit – if people need to hear it, fine. But it won’t make me well.”
Brooks, the dancer, says her dress was “made especially for our survivors and those who didn’t come home.”
“Every song we put on, we pray for our survivors,” he said.
“This is a very powerful garment.”
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