Home   |  About Us   |  Contacts   |  Products    
 News Items
 Top Stories
 News Briefs
 Vatican
 Origins
 Africa
 Headlines
 Also Featuring
 Movie Reviews
 Sunday Scripture
 CNS Blog
 Links to Clients
 Major Events
 2008 papal visit
 World Youth Day
 John Paul II
 For Clients
 Client Login
 CNS Insider
 We're also on ...
 Facebook
 Twitter
 RSS Feeds
 Top Stories
 Vatican
 Movie Reviews
 CNS Blog
.
 For More Info

 If you would like
 more information
 about Catholic
 News Service,
 please contact
 CNS at one of
 the following:
 cns@
 catholicnews.com
 or
 (202) 541-3250

.
 Copyright

 This material
 may not
 be published,
 broadcast,
 rewritten or
 otherwise
 distributed,
 except by
 linking to
 a page on
 this site.

.
 CNS Story:

SAINTS-CANADIANS Oct-22-2012 (700 words) With photos posted Oct. 21. xxxi

Canadians see St. Kateri's canonization as help for reconciliation


A sign calling attention to the First Nations is seen among Canadian pilgrims before the start of the canonization Mass Oct. 21. (CNS/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After decades of resentment and horror over the abuse of indigenous children, the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha marked a further step toward the reconciliation of the indigenous communities and the Catholic Church.

Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, told Canadian church and government officials the canonization "makes it possible, very much possible, to bring our community -- the First Nations -- very much closer with the Catholic Church. There was a rupture for too long."

Fontaine headed a 2009 Canadian aboriginal delegation to the Vatican, which received a formal apology from the church for the treatment of native children in Canadian residential schools.

An estimated 100,000 aboriginal children passed through the schools, which were abolished in the 1990s. They were established and paid for by the Canadian government, but were administered by various church organizations, including Roman Catholic dioceses and religious orders. The schools became known for widespread physical and sexual abuse of children and have been blamed for contributing to the disappearance of native languages and cultures.

Fontaine spoke at a reception after the canonization and Mass Oct. 21, addressing Canadian bishops, other First Nations leaders and a government delegation led by Andrew Scheer, speaker of the House of Commons.

Anne Leahy, Canadian ambassador to the Holy See, said the government delegation was a sign of just how much importance the government gave the canonization of St. Kateri, the first aboriginal saint from North America.

When Fontaine led the native delegation to the Vatican in 2009, he said, "we were blessed with a private audience with His Holiness (Pope Benedict XVI)," who gave the First Nations "great comfort. And now, here we are, three years later and we have another blessing: being witness to another very significant event," the official recognition of St. Kateri.

Her canonization, he said, "makes it possible to share our daughter with the universal church."

"If you link the two events" -- the 2009 meeting and the canonization -- "it is all about imparting reconciliation," Fontaine said.

The canonization, he said, "is an opportunity for us to say, 'We accept your apology, we forgive, and so now let us begin taking the important steps of healing and reconciliation."

Sylvain Chicoine, a member of the Canadian Parliament representing Chateauguay-Saint-Constant, Quebec, which includes the mission where Kateri died in 1680, told Catholic News Service the canonization is especially important in his region.

"They used to tell stories of Kateri in our schools, until about 30 years ago," he said. "Now the young will know her, too."

"Kateri made a bridge between the Europeans and the First Nations, and she can be an example today to rebuild bridges between our communities," which are still experiencing lingering tensions over land-use disputes from the 1990s, Chicoine said. "There is still work to do in repairing the relationship."

Elaine Johnson, a nurse and member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation in northeastern Saskatchewan, said she came to Rome for the celebration because St. Kateri "is our first First Nations saint. We need to empower ourselves and she's our role model for being prayerful, humble and giving. As a First Nations person, I just wanted to be present."

"We as First Nations people would not look at her as having adopted European culture. Christianity does not take away our identity," she said. "I was born and raised a First Nations person and a Catholic, which empowers you because your ultimate goal is heaven. The church strengthens you."

Tobasonakwut Kinew, an Ojibway elder and university lecturer, came from Winnipeg for the canonization. A survivor of abuse at a residential school, he was part of the First Nations delegation that met the pope in 2009.

He told CNS, "I was sitting in a hotel in Thunder Bay (Ontario) in 1970 and was asking, praying, begging to be freed from alcohol and that's the last time I took a drink. I grew up praying to Kateri, and I used to think prayers were never answered, but here I am today."

Asked to write out his name for a reporter, Kinew did so, saying, "That's one thing I did learn at the residential school."

END


Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
CNS · 3211 Fourth St NE · Washington DC 20017 · 202.541.3250