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The Observer

The Pope Apologizes to Canadian First Nations

Posted by Joshua Claycamp on

It's Monday, April 4 2022. I'm Joshua Claycamp. And this is the observer. A Kamloops Christians reflection upon the news from a biblical perspective. In order to help Christians understand how we need to think and feel about current events.

Well, indigenous delegates to the Vatican last week must have been feeling a great sense of satisfaction, perhaps even happiness as they flew home over this past weekend. It was reported on Friday that Pope Francis had apologized. Nobody was expecting it. And the great hope was that he would perhaps agree to come to Canada and to apologize on Canadian soil perhaps sometime later this year. However, he stunned delegates on Friday when he came out Friday morning and apologized. He apologized to all of them at that time, and he pledged to come to Canada at some point perhaps this year, it has been widely suspected, and he has committed to doing it again apologizing here on Canadian soil.

Many out many media outlets are reporting that it could happen as soon as this summer and if it does happen this summer it will indeed be a huge event for Kamloops and the to collapse test equipment, it would be all the more historic if he could perhaps pay his respects here as a part of his official papal visit. Many individuals who were present that day were expressing their complete shock and surprise at the fact that the Pope had apologized. It was reported in the Vancouver Sun that tears were rolling down the cheeks of many residential school survivors who are gathered there at the Vatican after the pope delivered his long awaited for apology for the Roman Catholic Church's role in the harm that hit the institution caused to generations upon generations of indigenous people, as they operated the residential school system, which forcibly removed Native American indigenous children from their homes and from their families in order to educate them. And in order to help them master English and understand English and Anglo Saxon Canadian culture.

The pontiff on Friday stood before a room of nearly 200 indigenous delegates in the Sayla Clementina, one of the halls of the Apostolic Palace, and he asked for God's forgiveness for the deplorable conduct of the church members. He said, and I quote, for the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I asked forgiveness of the Lord. The Pope asked for the Lord's forgiveness, and went on to say, quote, and I want to tell you from my heart, that I am greatly pained, and I unite myself with the Canadian bishops in apologizing. Now, various media outlets have reported these comments in different ways. It's been translated variously according to different translations.

At one point, it was reported that the Pope said and I want to tell you with all of my heart that I am greatly pained. But that last statement in particular has received a great deal of scrutiny. The Vancouver Sun has a quote, and I unite myself with the Canadian bishops in apologizing, but National Post has it quote, and I joined my brother's the Canadian bishops in asking your pardon. Now everybody has it correct that he indeed began his statement by saying, I asked forgiveness of the Lord. But various newspapers are translating that last comment somewhat differently. Is he asking for the pardon to come from indigenous leaders? Or is he simply expressing unity with the Canadian bishops in apologizing?

Now, this is an interesting point of Roman Catholic theology. This comes from an understanding of what Roman Catholics considered to be the infallibility of the Pope. Now the pope may indeed ask the Lord for forgiveness. But it is not entirely clear whether or not the pope ever could ask for forgiveness from indigenous people. This is one of the peculiarities of Roman Catholic theology, and extends all the way back to Vatican one, the first Vatican Council, but before we get to that Roman Catholic authorities in terms of understanding papal authority, that is the power of the Pope. Roman Catholics define the Pope's power as a power of infallibility, which is a fancy word for saying that he is immune from error, at least as far as his teaching is concerned regarding doctrines of the faith or morals that he is infallible from error that is he is immune from error he can cannot make error. Indeed, Vatican one pronounced that all of the faithful of Christ must believe that the apostolic see that is the seat of Rome. And the Roman Pontiff, that is, the pope holds primacy over the whole world, and that the pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of quote, the blessitt, Peter, the chief of the apostles, and quote, and that the Pope, the sea of Rome, is the true vicar that is, he is the presence of Christ in the flesh on this earth, says he is the true Vicar of Christ, and the head of the whole church and faith, and he is the teacher of all Christians. And that to him, was handed down in blessing Peter, by our Lord Jesus Christ, full power, to feed to rule notice that to rule and to guide the universal church, just as it also is contained in the records of the Ecumenical Councils, and the various sacred canons. Now, for those of you who may be wondering where I'm getting that that does, indeed come from the the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, but I'm quoting those exact statements from Vatican one, as found in sources of Catholic dogma written by Henry Desinger, pages 455, two pages 456.

And in effect, what the Roman Catholic Church believes, according to Vatican one, is that the Pope is incapable of making error, and that the reason why he is incapable of making error the reason why he possesses this degree of infallibility is that he holds primacy quote over the whole world and quote, they truly believe, as it was determined at Vatican one, that the Pope is given power from Jesus Christ through the descent of various Pope's, over the centuries, going all the way back to Peter, that the Pope has the full power to feed. This must be understood in a spiritual sense, to feed the church, he has the full power to rule the Church that is to dictate and decide what is and is not to happen. And then he has the power to guide the universal church, I'll read it to you again, that to him, quote to him, was handed down in the blessed Peter by our Lord Jesus Christ, full power to feed number one, number two, to rule number three, to guide the universal church just as it has also been contained in the records of the Ecumenical Councils and in the sacred canons. What an incredible statement, what an incredible attribution of power and responsibility has been laid at the feet of this man who sits in the chair in Rome to preside over the entire Roman Catholic Church. When Vatican one states that the Pope has ultimate authority to teach the church to rule the Church to govern the church. We understand then, that all the actions of the various Cardinals and the various bishops and the various priests extending all the way down to the local parishes, the local congregations of Roman Catholics, all comes from the Express, guiding hand, the rule and the authority of the Pope.

The Pope has been determined to be the Vicar of Christ, that is the representative in the flesh, on this earth of Jesus Christ Himself. And as such, when he makes decisions, when he hands down decrees when he rules when he decides what's going to happen, and what's not going to happen. It is to be understood as the direct representation of Jesus Christ himself upon this earth. And so if you have a situation, as we have here in Canada, in which there has over the last 100 years, been a horrific system of abuse, a horrific system of of neglect, and terror that has been inflicted upon indigenous children as they have been forcibly removed from the homes of their parents, in order to be taught English in order to be in structed in Roman Catholic theology and the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, and as other abuses unfolded, all of this was done with the sanctioning power of the Pope. All of this was done, as Vatican one teaches us according to the wishes, the dictates Perhaps not explicitly expressed, but otherwise generally understood, as coming from the head of the Church, which is the Pope, who is himself to be understood as the representative of Jesus Christ, the Vicar of Christ on this earth. Wow, what an incredible statement. And so when the Pope comes out on Friday, and asks for forgiveness, indeed, according to the theology of the Roman Catholic Church, the forgiveness which he is seeking is coming from Jesus. And therefore he is expressing an apology to the indigenous leaders, but he is not necessarily telling them that he was wrong and that he needs to be forgiven by them. This is where we have to theologically mince the words of the Roman Catholic Church. And we have to understand exactly what it is that the Pope is saying, we need to look closely at it. Indeed, I'll read, I'll read the Pope's apology to you one more time so that you can be clear on terms of what he said. The Pope said on Friday for the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I asked forgiveness of the Lord. Now this is completely consistent with Roman Catholic theology, the Pope is acting as an intercessor, even though there is no other intercessor besides Christ himself, but the Pope is According to Roman Catholic theology, acting as an intercessor. As a priest, he is coming between those individuals of the Roman Catholic Church who have sinned in his eyes. And he is saying to all those indigenous delegates who are gathered there in the hall of the Papal Palace, that he is asking forgiveness from the Lord, for those individuals. He's not asking forgiveness from the indigenous people. He's not asking forgiveness from those 200 delegates that were gathered there. He says, and I quote for the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I asked forgiveness of the Lord. Now he goes on to say, quote, and I want to tell you from my heart, or some translations have it with all my heart, that I am greatly pained. Again, indeed, the Roman Catholic church ought to be paid for what transpired in the residential schools. But he's not necessarily asking for forgiveness. He goes on to say, and I quote, I unite myself with the Canadian bishops, in apologizing. So the church, the church is saying, We are sorry to you that this happened. But we are asking forgiveness from the Lord. Though it is not expressly stated in so many words, it is not to be understood that they believe themselves to be indebted, in a spiritual sense to those individuals whom they have wronged. In other words, they do not necessarily believe themselves needing to be released or forgiven from crimes that were committed to them. This is important. In order to understand these statements that are being offered by the Roman Catholic Church, we now understand the theology in which these statements are grounded.

In our current day and age, there is such a lack of understanding regarding theology, there is such a complete lack of understanding regarding what the difference is between someone who is a Catholic versus someone who is a Protestant, versus someone who is an Evangelical, when we say we are sorry, what exactly does that expression mean? Oftentimes, it just means that we are grieved that another individual may have felt pain that another individual may have experienced some hardship, it doesn't necessarily mean that we have done something that is wrong, for which we need to be released. We need a debt to be forgiven. That is, we need for the individual we have sinned against or committed a crime against in terms of acknowledging that crime to release us from making restitution for that crime. Indeed, that's what forgiveness is. And as we reflect upon Pope Francis's statement on Friday, we need to understand that while he was expressing an apology while he was saying he was sorry, in terms of requesting forgiveness, he certainly wasn't asking it, of the indigenous leaders that gathered there in Rome on Friday.

But with the apology that Pope Francis offered on Friday, there were here at home in Canada mixed reactions. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had asked the Pope to apologize on Canadian soil said that the country's history quote will be forever stained by the legacy of the schools and that he was looking forward to the papal visit. Quote, today's apology is a step forward in acknowledging the truth of our past. We cannot separate the legacy of the residential school system from the institutions that created, maintained and operated it, including the Government of Canada and the Catholic Church, the prime minister said in a statement, however, following the Pope's apologies to indigenous people on Friday

The seal Okanagan nation Alliance says that they are past apologies. In a statement that was released Friday night. The nation which is comprised of several southern interior bands and British Columbia, said that they are demanding the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church and the Government of Canada, quote, move beyond empty apologies. The exact statement that was released comes from Chief Greg Gabrielle of the Penticton Indian Band, Chief gabrial said, quote, apologies and empty words from the Prime Minister, government officials or a trip to the Vatican will never heal the pain and hurt that our people were subjected to, were witness to and continue to endure we are past apologies, there is no forgiveness for the murder and attempted murder of our children. And we have no faith in the processes that are being undertaken by colonial institutions. Now this is where we as Christians need to step back. And we need to evaluate how it is that we are to continue to be sympathetic to the injustices that were perpetrated against indigenous people, while at the same time continuing to bear witness to the greatness of God's love, His mercy and indeed, his forgiveness, we can certainly agree as Christians, we can certainly agree and empathize with our indigenous neighbors and fellow First Nations, that what happened in the past was indeed wrong. It is wrong, that children were forcibly removed from the homes of their mothers and their fathers. It is wrong, that they were spending so much if not the entirety of their childhood growing up in these institutions away from the direct care and the love and the nurture that God intended for them to receive at the hands of their parents, we can agree that all of that was wrong. And yet at the same time, we need to recognize that there is an even greater danger that is confronting us. It is not wrong, to cry out for justice, it is not wrong, to have this delegation formed and sent to Rome, to ask of the Pope and to ask of the Roman Catholic Church that an apology be made. These things are not wrong.

But having made this apology having extended this olive branch, there is an even greater danger, that there will be no forgiveness possible, but that we as a nation will continue to languish in a growing bitterness that ensues when we cannot find room in order to acknowledge the wrongs of the past, and to allow forgiveness to take place in the present. As Christians, what we find in the New Testament is that one powerful way of overcoming bitterness and the spirit of revenge, is to place our faith in the promise that God will ultimately be the one to settle accounts with those who have wronged us so that we do not have to

the New Testament teaches that we are freed from the spirit of vengeance by believing that God will ultimately one day take vengeance for us all if he must. We are ultimately called to live by faith in a future grace that comes from God which involves his doing justice for all with perfect fairness with perfect equity, as Christians were called to live by faith in that future. And in doing so, this frees us from all sense of vengeance from all sense of bitterness. And we are set free from this by trusting God to settle all accounts justly. Consider, for example, the command of Jesus as Christians we are to live in this world, quote, loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you this from Matthew chapter five and verse 44. The reason Jesus gives this command is that quote, you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for he causes his son to rise on both the just and the unjust. While I've been doers in this age, God gives many blessings to those who are immoral and cruel. Paul said to the Gentiles who had never heard of the true God, quote, God did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness in Acts, chapter 14, verse 17.

In all of this, God is showing undeserved kindness and forbearance and patience, that he intends to lead the nations to repentance, and Jesus commands us To imitate our father and these things, he says, quote, love your enemies and do good And lend expecting nothing in return. And your reward will be great and you will be called sons of the Most High four. He himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men, Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful, and quote, indeed, while there is still hope, for the conversion of those around us, we should feel with the apostle Paul, the same feeling he feels when he says, quote, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation and quote, and so if we are persecuted as Christians, we are to turn the other cheek. And if we are persecuted as Christians, we are to pray for those who persecute us. We are to bless those who curse us and we are not to return evil for evil. But if possible, as Paul says in Romans chapter 12, we are to live in peace with all men, as witnesses of this kindness, this forgiveness which God has given us in the cross, we are also called by Christ to share that good news with our indigenous neighbors with First Nations, those individuals who have family or close relatives who have suffered under the abuse and the tragedy of the residential school system.

I am speaking as a Cherokee, my grandmother walked on the Trail of Tears. Indeed, my family has known the horror and the abuses, which First Nations individuals have suffered as a result of colonial settlement. Now I can say this, no amount of money would ever bring her back. No amount of money or financial compensation would ever actually satisfy the justice that is owed on account of those who are forced to walk the Trail of Tears. By demanding such things, we actually cheap in their lives, as though it were possible to reduce the worth of a human being to some actual financial dollar amount. And at the same time, I can acknowledge that there is a pain in my heart that lingers to this day as a result of never having gotten to know my great grandmother, as a result of never having gotten to have those precious memories told of her. And yet, I look forward to a day in which I know that real justice will be accomplished.

I look forward to a day in which I know that the Lord of Lords and the King of kings will himself return to this earth, and every injustice will be made right. And every tear will be wiped away from every eye. It was not wrong for indigenous people to travel to Rome, to ask the Pope to apologize, we should be skeptical of the apology, we should understand it in light of the theology in which it was expressed. And having had this apology expressed. Now we must grapple with the real suffering that is to take place at this point in time, the suffering of forgiveness. As Timothy Keller said, forgiveness is indeed costly suffering because it is an agreement on the part of those individuals who have been wronged to bear the cost of that wrong to absorb it. And to say that the offending party first is incapable of making full restitution, but also saying that for the cause of peace and for the glory of God, we will let this go not saying it was right that it happened. But understanding that justice will one day be done in the courts of heaven.

And no one. No one demonstrated this better than Jesus Christ Himself, who, though he did no wrong, committed no sin, and nor was there any evil found in his words and in what he taught, was condemned to die under Pontius Pilate, based on the accusations of the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. The religious establishment in Jerusalem during the first century, marched out to Golgotha out to die on a cross. And as He hung there on that cross dying an innocent man, the only truly fully innocent man ever to live from that cross, he cried out, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. Jesus wasn't saying that the crowd that was there that day was unaware of the fact that an injustice was being committed. Jesus was not in any way suggesting that these individuals were innocent. What he was saying was that they needed to be forgiven by God. And one of the please have mercy he made interceding for all of humanity and for those that were gathered that day, was that they did not fully appreciate the magnitude of their sin. Jesus cries out for forgiveness, understanding that we are selves are not really capable of understanding the magnitude of our crimes, or the magnitude of the sins that we have all committed.

And so as we think about whether or not we can forgive those who have wronged us, it's important for us to reflect on the fact that we ourselves do not really understand the magnitude of all that we have done wrong. Jesus warns, if we do not forgive, the same measure that we use against others will be measured against us. And so, as we think about Easter, and as we think about the upcoming holiday celebration of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we need to reflect on the fact that the only innocent man ever to live cried out from the cross Father, forgive them in my prayers, that we would be able to reach out to our digitus friends, and share with them the good news of Jesus Christ, that because of what he has done in lacrosse, we can forgive and we do not have to be the ones extracting vengeance and justice, for there is one who will do it with far greater precision, and far more holy accuracy than we could ever attempt. Thanks for listening to the observer. My name is Joshua Claycamp. And you can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com forward slash Joshua Claycamp. The observer is a ministry of First Baptist Church where Christians seek to discern the news differently. For more information on First Baptist Church of Kamloops just go to first Baptist Kamloops dot o RG or for more information on first Baptist classical Academy. Just go to first Baptist classical dot o RG I'll meet you again tomorrow for more of the observer.

Tags: church, god, power, forgiveness, christians, forgive, apology, pope, understand, rome, roman catholic church, apologizing, vatican, individuals, kamloops, indigenous, indigenous people, roman catholic theology, residential school system