The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
has released more details about Pope Benedict's meeting with Phil Fontaine, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and other representatives of Aboriginal and Catholic communities. Archbishop James Weisgerber, President of the CCCB, shared this firsthand account of the historic audience:
His face spoke even louder than his words. [...] He listened intently and one could see how saddened he was by these traumatic events of the past and their continued effects on the lives of the people today. The Holy Father expressed the prayer and hope that this event would help the Aboriginal communities of Canada be internally freed from this historic tragedy and enabled to create a strong future. The Pope offered his spiritual support and presence for the Church in Canada as it continues to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities in building this future together.
This afternoon, the Holy See Press Office also released this communiqué
further detailing the meeting, which occurred in a private room in Paul VI Audience Hall following the Pope's Wednesday General Audience.
His Holiness recalled that since the earliest days of her presence in Canada, the Church, particularly through her missionary personnel, has closely accompanied the indigenous peoples. Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian Residential School system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity. His Holiness emphasized that acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society. He prayed that all those affected would experience healing, and he encouraged First Nations Peoples to continue to move forward with renewed hope.