Statement of Reconciliation by Most
Rev. Peter A. Sutton, O.M.I.
Ile a la Crosse, Saskatchewan,
June 30, 1996.
My Brothers and Sisters:
In four years time we will celebrate the advent of the year 2000. For Christians throughout the world, this Jubilee will proclaim the saving act of the Redeemer Jesus, the one mediator between God and man, for "there is no other name under heaven by which we are saved." (Act 4:12) These days of Homecoming in Ile-a-la-Crosse are calling to mind the life of this human family and the life of faith of this parish particularly. Well over 300 men and women religious and clergy came as missionaries and lived among you - some 20 being buried in this local cemetery.
These past few years have been painful for many people including this generation of priests and religious. These have been painful years for individuals and families who have been trying to come to terms with injustices and violence, with abuse and condemnation, accusation and allegation. This is our human history.
There is a burning desire to be set free from whatever enslaves us as human beings. There is an urgent need to experience healing and forgiveness. There is a need for all of us to reach out in humble confessions and admissions of the facts of history - to extend hands in healing and forgiveness.
Across Canada in recent years there have been attempts to encourage the revitalization and renewal among First Nation Peoples at the national level. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops publicly stated its encouragement in the brief to the Royal Commission on November 8, 1993 . . . the brief: "Let Justice Flow Like a Mighty River."
Bishops across the country and religious orders will readily identify with those statements which acknowledge the resurgence occurring among aboriginal peoples of a spiritual awakening. The journey ahead has to do with finding new life in a healthier climate of trust, encouragement, respect, and equality of the sons and daughters of God.
The Church has been called upon to examine her understanding of mission which admittedly, having been too closely identified to the European forces of expansion and assimilation, have contributed to the weakening of the spirit of Aboriginal Peoples. We bear in mind that there have been abuses on both sides; it is for all of us to look deep into our hearts to read the signs of these times and forge new ways of living together as men and women of truth.
Pope John Paul II encourages all of us to enter seriously into a journey of reconciliation when he says:
She (The Church) cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without encouraging her children to purify themselves, through repentance, of past errors and instances of infidelity, inconsistency, and slowness to act. Acknowledging the weaknesses of the past is an act of honesty and courage which helps us to strengthen our faith, which alerts us to face today 's temptations and challenges and prepares us to meet them.
Unfortunately, in December '95, due to conflicting schedules, I was unable to attend the Sacred Assembly in Hull, Quebec. However, diocesan personnel, Metis and First Nation People from this diocese did attend. This is the first opportunity I have had to publicly endorse this Reconciliation Proclamation. In confirming this proclamation here in Ile-a la Crosse, I urge you too to make it your own. I take it upon myself to assure that our whole diocese will know that we share common ground for a journey together in mutual respect and trust.
We, the delegates to Sacred Assembly '95, gathered together in Hull, Quebec on December 6 - 9, 1995, having come from the four corners of this land - East, West, North, and South - and having brought with us diverse spiritual backgrounds, and having listened to and prayed with Elders, spiritual leaders and with each other, are able to assert the following:
We share, as part of our common spiritual foundation, the belief that:
- the Creator God reigns supreme over all things;
- the land on which we live was created for the benefit of all;
- as the original inhabitants of this land, Aboriginal peoples have a special right and responsibility to ensure the continuing integrity of the land and the unity and well-being of its inhabitants; and
- non-Aboriginal Canadians also now share in these responsibilities.
We share the recognition
- that reconciliation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians must be rooted in a spiritual understanding of land as a gift from the Creator God;
- the sins of injustice which have historically divided Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples remain active in our society today;
- concrete actions must be taken by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples alike to overcome these injustices and to bind up the wounds of those who have suffered;
We share an understanding
- that the starting point for healing and reconciliation lies in personal communion with the' Creator God;
- while change must take place at all levels of society, it must be rooted most firmly in the communities; and
- relations based on justice will require respect for past treaties, a fair settlement of land rights disputes, the implementation of the inherent right of self-government and the creation of economic development opportunities and other institutions to support it.
We share a commitment, as individuals:
- to seek the personal guidance and counsel of Elders and spiritual leaders in order to walk more closely with the Creator God;
- to return to our communities and develop ways to continue the process of healing and reconciliation that has begun at Sacred Assembly '95;
- to continue to explore with each other our sacred foundations, in order to bring about spiritual reconciliation, Aboriginal justice and the fulfillment of political responsibilities in this country;
- to continue to respect the differences in our spiritual journeys, even as we seek to discover the common spiritual link between us.
As churches and faith communities:
- to continue the process of healing and reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples, by providing the forums and supports needed to heal the wounds created in the past;
- to become stronger advocates for justice and reconciliation in current and future public - affairs, and to hold our governments accountable for the implementation of just policies;
- to re-commit ourselves to a program of education and action on issues relating to land rights, self-government, economic development and racism.
As First Nations and Aboriginal communities and organizations:
- to work towards healing and reconciliation within our own communities;
- to accept the challenge issued by our Youth to create an environment in our communities that encourages a healthy view of oneself and respect for others, and which also addresses community conflicts that prevent Youth from finding their path.
96.06.29 - Ile-a-la-Crosse.