Canadians see St. Kateri's canonization as help for reconciliation
Published: October 22, 2012
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After decades of resentment and horror over the abuse of indigenous children, the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha marked a further step toward the reconciliation of the indigenous communities and the Catholic Church. Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Canada, told Canadian church and government officials the canonization "makes it possible, very much possible, to bring our community -- the First Nations -- very much closer with the Catholic Church. There was a rupture for too long." Fontaine headed a 2009 Canadian aboriginal delegation to the Vatican, which received a formal apology from the church for the treatment of native children in Canadian residential schools. An estimated 100,000 aboriginal children passed through the schools, which were abolished in the 1990s. They were established and paid for by the Canadian government, but were administered by various church organizations, including Roman Catholic dioceses and religious orders. The schools became known for widespread physical and sexual abuse of children and have been blamed for contributing to the disappearance of native languages and cultures. Fontaine spoke at a reception after the canonization and Mass Oct. 21, addressing Canadian bishops, other First Nations leaders and a government delegation led by Andrew Scheer, speaker of the House of Commons.
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