The Pope tells Canadian clergy that God does not want there to be “a world dominated by religious laws.”
Pope Francis presented a way ahead for the Catholic Church in Canada as it seeks forgiveness and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples affected by its past deeds on his second day in Quebec City. He also addressed the issues of clericalism in the church as well as rising secularism in the country.
The pope condemned individuals who would impose the church‘s views on the public sphere in a homily delivered on Thursday (July 28) to clergy and church members assembled at Notre Dame Cathedral.
““God wants us to be sons and daughters, not slaves,” Francis added. “He does not wish to make decisions for us or enslave us with sacral authority in a religiously regulated world.” No! He made us free, and he expects us to be mature and responsible citizens in life and in society.”
The pope’s statements come as Christian nationalist rhetoric finds ground in European and American conservative political groups. Recent remarks by Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, who claims to be “weary of this separation of church and state stuff,” have prompted arguments in the United States over the role of religion in government.
His remarks were also intended to oppose clericalism, which the pope has criticized for allowing sexual abuse and power abuse to spread inside the Catholic Church.
Francis is on a six-day “penitential pilgrimage” in Canada (July 24-29), where he has publicly apologized to First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples for persecution and virtually erasure of their cultures by church and civil authorities.
To be credible on its “new path” toward reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, the church must admit and atone for its past errors, according to Pope Francis. For the first time since his arrival in Canada, Pope Francis recognized clerical sexual abuse of kids and vulnerable adults, calling for “strong action and an irrevocable commitment.”
“Together with you, I would like to seek forgiveness of all the victims once more.” The agony and embarrassment we experience must serve as a catalyst for conversion: “Never again!” he said. “Never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected with the notion that one culture is superior to another, or that it is appropriate to use coercive methods on others.”
The pope stated that mending connections with the marginalized Indigenous population is not the only difficulty confronting the Catholic Church in Canada today. “We may instantly think of secularization,” Francis added, referring to the process by which faith and God have been pushed “to the margins.”
“God appears to have vanished from the horizon, and his word no longer appears to be a compass directing our life, basic decisions, personal and societal interactions,” he continued.
Instead of attempting to impose religion on the state or bemoaning the days when clergy wielded political power, the pope stated that “secularization requires us reflect on the changes in society that have changed the way people think about and organize their lives.”
He went on to say that it’s not the faith itself that’s in trouble, but “some of the forms and manner in which we communicate it.”
To combat this, the church needs “pastoral inventiveness,” according to the Pope. Francis provided advice to clergy on how to embrace this development. He urged the church to proclaim the gospel in such a way that it displays “the freedom that sets others free, the compassion that asks for nothing in return, the kindness that gently speaks of Christ.”
He went on to say that in order to be believable, the church must act as a witness. “We must begin with ourselves: bishops and priests who should not feel superior to our brothers and sisters in the people of God,” he stated. Pastoral workers who should not regard service as a source of power.”
According to him, fraternity is the final component required for the church’s reformation in order to build “a welcome community” capable of “hearing, engaging in debate, and encouraging genuine connections.”
On Thursday morning, Pope Francis said Mass in front of 2,000 faithful at the National Shrine of St. Anne de Beaupré, where his predecessor St. John Paul II met for the first time with Indigenous peoples during his apostolic journey to Quebec City in 1984.
Francis urged Catholics to embark on a “road from failure to hope,” referring to crimes done against Canada’s Indigenous peoples. “We, too, have experienced terrible dismay in confronting the scandal of evil and the body of Christ wounded in the flesh of our Indigenous brothers and sisters; we, too, suffer the burden of failure,” he stated.
“There is nothing worse than running to avoid it,” he added, adding that only through faith and the gospel can one experience “the operative presence of God’s love and the possibility for good even in seemingly hopeless situations.”
Thousands of pilgrims gathered outside the shrine to see Pope Francis. While many cheered him on as he circled the area in his popemobile, others held signs urging him to take actions to back up his words of repentance, such as repealing the Doctrine of Discovery, a centuries-old papal mandate that allowed Western nations to colonize and spread Christianity in the New World.