In Quebec, Pope Francis’ advice to secular Canada

What future for the Catholic Church in a country where religious practice has collapsed? Before the bishops, priests and Catholic leaders of Canada, gathered Thursday, July 28 at the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Quebec, Pope Francis wanted to give some advice to the faithful, in one of the countries that most affected by dechristianization.

Secularization, Francis said on the fifth day of his trip to Canada, “Leaving God almost behind”does not necessarily result in “pessimism” and “bitterness”. To the Catholics of Quebec, the pope asked not to allow themselves to be reached by “negative view” in the world, and to change the faith to a “armor” provided for “to protect oneself from the world”.

A negative worldview is “unchristian”

This negative view of the world, which consists of saying that “The world is evil” and “sin reigns”, “Not a Christian”warned François, who also warned against anything “crusading spirit”.

“The Lord, who hates the world, looks kindly on the world”, insisted Francis, responding to any temptation of Catholics to seek refuge outside society with a reflex of a besieged fortress.

“We are called to have an appearance similar to the appearance of God, who knows how to recognize the good and continues to seek it, sees it and cultivates it, advised Francois. This is not an idle look, but a look that recognizes the truth. »

The decline of religious practice

Religious practice is in free fall in Canada, where 32% of the population is Catholic, and where 25% of them observe a religious practice once a month. A figure that drops to 14% in Quebec. In La Belle Province, nearly 40% less than in 1985. Regarding the weekly practice, it has decreased significantly here among Catholics, from 88% in 1957 to 7% in 2018.

“The problem of secularization, for us Christians, is not necessarily the reduction of the social importance of the Church or the loss of material wealth and privileges”, continued Francois.

Since the beginning of the journey, many of the faithful who have attended the various papal ceremonies are well aware of the dechristianization of Canadian society. This is the case of Guy Fontaine, a retired computer scientist who is now a volunteer at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré sanctuary, near Quebec. He also sees this secularization at a rapid pace. “In the 1980s, the sanctuary was full, for the novena of Saint Anne, in July. Now there’s almost nothing left.” he raised. He recalled that, in the 1960s, the Canadian government gradually took over the management of hospitals and schools from religious congregations during a movement known here as “The Quiet Revolution”.

“The clergy is there, believable, it has a great influence. Now it’s over.” he believed. Will the situation change with the arrival of Pope Francis? “I couldn’t tell you, he answered. People are more suspicious of the Church. They lost confidence. »

Thursday, to respond to this great dechristianization of society, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics in Quebec to restore their credibility, after the crisis of sexual abuse. Words used for the first time since the beginning of the trip, when the pope spoke on Monday of “physical abuse” committed against Aboriginal people in residential schools.

“I think especially of the sexual abuse committed against minors and vulnerable people, scandals that call for strong action and an irrevocable fight, the father insisted. I want, with you, to apologize again to all the victims. The pain and shame we feel must be an opportunity for conversion: never again! »

“Listen and Talk”

As he did in the morning, in front of 7,000 faithful attending mass at the shrine of Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, near Quebec, the pope encouraged Canadian Catholics to “living in communion”. Aware of the internal division between indigenous and non-indigenous Catholics, the pope asked them to act “welcoming communities”where we know “Listen and talk” and “promote good quality relationships”.

A few hours earlier, the pope pleaded with Canadian Catholics to allow themselves “Healing the Wounds of the Past” and “reconcile”. “Faced with the scandal of evil and the wounded Body of Christ in the flesh of our native brothers, we are immersed in bitterness and we feel the weight of failure. (…) How does this happen in the community of those who follow Jesus? », asked the father.

A painful question, which also crossed those in the sanctuary visited by John Paul II in 1984, when the pope apologized several times, since the beginning of his visit to Canada, for the role played by Catholic Church to manage residential schools for more than a century. “I have nothing against the natives, and I recognize that they have suffered, explained to a faithful before the mass. But we act as if the Church has done nothing good. With repeated excuses, we look like monsters. »

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