In Iqaluit, Canada's northernmost city, Pope Francis invites young Inuit to work within their own culture and in the “beautiful” Inuktitut language to continue to walk forward, come to the light each day, and be part of a team, with the hope that they “might embrace the Gospel preserved and handed down” by their ancestors and come to see the Inuk face of Jesus Christ.
Both events took place at Nakasuk Elementary School, one of four elementary schools in Iqaluit. Speaking privately with residential school survivors and hearing some of their stories, Pope Francis led those present in the recitation of the Our Father, before offering them his Apostolic Blessing.
Outside, in the schoolyard, the Holy Father was greeted by local leaders, and treated to an exhibition of traditional Inuit song, dance, and music, before giving his address, which was addressed to a group of Inuit young people and elders.
The Holy Father once again expressed his sorrow, and begged forgiveness, “for the evils perpetrated by not a few Catholics who contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation and [the policy of] ‘enfranchisment’” in the residential school system.
Pope Francis invited young people to embrace the past, to be passionate, and not to be afraid to listen to the counsels of their elders – and in that spirit, offered, “as an elder brother,” three pieces of advice.
First, he encouraged them to “keep walking upwards,” to aspire to great things; and he reminded them that they are the answer to the challenges of the world today. “The future is in your hands,” he told them. “Never lose hope, fight, give it your all, and you will not be sorry.”
Then he invited them to “come to the light,” by bringing light to others and working to dispel the darkness of the world. This demands discernment, the ability to distinguish between light and darkness, as well as the freedom to choose what is right.
Third, Pope Francis called they youth to “be part of team,” using the example of hockey players who are able to excel because of teamwork. “Teamwork means believing that, in order to achieve great goals, you cannot go it alone; you have to move together, to have the patience to practice and carry out complicated plays.”
Finally, Pope Francis encouraged young people to “Do all this within your own culture and in the beautiful Inuktitut language.”
“It is my hope and prayer,” he said, “that, by listening to your elders and drawing from the richness of your traditions and your personal freedom, you will embrace the Gospel preserved and handed down by your ancestors, and thus come to see the Inuk face of Jesus Christ.”
After a heartfelt blessing, the final word of the Pope’s final public address in Canada was a simple “Thank you,” fittingly expressed in Inuktitut: “Qujannamiik!”
Source and photo credit: Vatican News