Analysis | Francis' promises: loneliness and helplessness
After ten years in power, Pope Francis seems alone and often exhausted. End of reign? Here is the third and last text about the promises of François.
Pope Francis meditates in front of Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta, during her visit to Canada in July 2022.
For several decades now, popes have been traveling. Often these are moments of joy for Catholics. Above, one of the most striking photos of François' reign. It sums up ten years of power, battles and promises.
A man, the head of the largest religious institution, alone, in a wheelchair, in front of a lake with uncertain shores. There is nothing in front of him, except all the ghosts of those who arranged to meet him in Canada.
For more than a century, thousands of Aboriginal children were torn from their families and handed over to mainly Catholic monks who did everything to eliminate their cultures.
They almost succeeded.
In this dark history, before Francis, ten popes succeeded each other without ever apologizing for the active participation of their Church in what Pope Francis himself considers to be a genocide. There have been regrets, but little more.
At least until the spring of 2022.
Faced with this tragedy, what is could the revolutionary pope offer those who have suffered so much?
In March 2022, Pope Francis opened the doors of the Clementine Room to First Nations representatives. A mythical hall of the Vatican, where under the magnificent frescoes and the cold marble, so many great characters, for 500 years, have paraded.
And here are these moving images. David Serkoak sounds his drum. Kevin Scott does a flamboyant traditional dance. And Adrian N. Gunner, a young Cree from Waswanipi, who presented the Pope with a pair of beautiful traditional snowshoes.
Adrian N. Gunner presented Pope Francis with traditional rackets. 40 years ago, his grandfather Billy Diamond also offered snowshoes to Pope John Paul II.
It is already a victory to make the voice of the first peoples of Canada resonate in the lair of those who did everything to suppress their culture. By giving you these rackets now, said Pope Adrian N. Gunner in Cree, I want to let you know and show you that our language and our culture are still very much alive.
This was a long journey for the First Nations people who made it to the Clementine Hall in the Vatican. Such a long journey for a few words. And here they are at last.
I want to tell you, with all my heart, I'm so sorry. Before Pope Francis added: I join my brother bishops of Canada in apologizing to you.
Even I had tears, recalls the Grand Chief of the Crees of Quebec, Mandy Gull-Masly. I saw a man who really took the chance to bring attention to something that was not well known in the world. The truth about these residential schools, the truth about the experience of survivors.
Mandy Gull-Masty, first woman elected Grand Chief of the Crees of Quebec.
Mandy Gull-Masly could not have guessed that on the last day of her trip to the Vatican, the pope was going to invite himself to Canada, as if on a whim. No doubt to give weight to the excuses? What are words worth when you've taken so long to say them?
When the pope announced he was coming to Canada, there were all kinds of reactions, recalls Mandy Gull-Masty. There are people who said, “Why? We don't need him anymore." There were angry people. And others who were eager to hear it.
And three months later, it was an amazing journey. The Plains of Abraham were practically empty. The big stadium in Edmonton was certainly not packed. The popular Pope Francis did not sell out! How is this possible?
Only a few hundred people were waiting for the pope to pass in front of the entrance to the Parc des Champs-de-Bataille on Grande Allée, far from the expected crowds.
This trip was not a party. The pope had an appointment with one of the ugliest pages in the history of the Catholic Church in Canada. I think that's the way to see these stunning images. A prayer at the cemetery. The pope in a wheelchair on the site of one of the largest residential schools for Aboriginal people of the time. He listened. He apologized. And then again. And even. On the plane, on the way back, he even spoke of genocide. It's not nothing anyway.
Everyone was talking about Pope Francis, remembers Mandy Gull-Masly. And I wondered how he feels, him, as a man, as a person. I was, I can say, proud of him, even though there were times when he was all alone.
Was that too little? Too late? After more than a century of silence, can words still make a difference? Or hurt more?
And finally this huge image on the shore of Lac Ste. Anne. That of a pope, suddenly, who seems so old. And helpless.
Nothing he can say or do will change anything that has been experienced. Pain, despair, anger. Nothing can erase his responsibility. Violence committed in the name of white and Catholic superiority. All these dead that only silence in the cemetery can hear.
During his trip to Canada on July 25, 2022, in Maskwacis, Alberta, Pope Francis renewed his apologies for the Church's involvement in the residential school system for Indigenous people.
Well, for me, this trip to Canada is one of the most powerful moments of François' ten years in power. Even a revolution cannot redo the past. There are promises you can never keep.
Only cardinals can vote when a pope is elected. Only the pope can appoint cardinals. However, in ten years, Francis will have appointed nearly two-thirds of the cardinals who would have the right to vote if a conclave took place today.
So, these Francis cardinals, who will they vote for? The truth is, we don't know. In Rome, there are always names of potential successors floating around towards the end of a pope's reign. Not this time.
These new cardinals often come from far and wide, places sometimes overlooked by Church government. These cardinals do not know Rome and the Vatican very well. They never participated in a conclave. It is not even certain that they ever visited the Sistine Chapel. They are often occupied with the reality of their end of the planet.
This possible conclave promises to confuse the cards of the specialists. Suddenly, it could be the ultimate act of this pope who came to make the revolution.
To learn more about the 10 years of Pope Francis, do not miss the documentary Les promises de François, rebroadcast on Sunday, March 12 at 9:30 p.m.