Iqaluit priest preaches ‘forgiveness’ as Pope arrives in Canada to apologize

‘Forgiveness of sins’ figures prominently in homily ahead of Francis’ visit to Nunavut

Rev. Daniel Perreault, the pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic church in Iqaluit, gives the eucharist to a young parishioner Sunday. (Photo by Corey Larocque)

By Corey Larocque

While Pope Francis was airborne Sunday morning — en route to Canada to make an historic apology —his flock in Iqaluit was getting a sermon on forgiveness.

“We’re invited to forgive those who have sinned against us, those who offend us,” said Rev. Daniel Perreault, the pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption Roman Catholic church. “I believe, actually it’s the most difficult thing to do.”

Before Sunday’s mass, Father Perreault said he hadn’t tailored his prayers or his homily to include a message about the Pope’s visit. It was to focus on a general reading of scripture, like every week, he said.

But his lesson was a phrase-by-phrase examination of the Lord’s Prayer, which Perreault noted has been said by Christians in “all nations from the time of Jesus to today.”

When he got to the line asking God to forgive the sins that all people commit and to forgive the sins people commit against them, Perreault called it “the difficult one.”

“We feel this in our flesh. How can I forgive this person, this person who hates me?”

But forgiveness starts with a person’s conscious decision to grant it, he said.

“Because I believe in Christ, I decide to forgive … I forgive the one that hates me.”

Later, he encouraged his congregation to say the Lord’s Prayer with Pope Francis on Friday when the head of the Roman Catholic Church visits Iqaluit, the final stop of the Pope’s six-day visit to Canada.

“If we do not forgive, we are telling God not to forgive us,” Perreault said.

Pope Francis arrived in Edmonton late Sunday morning. He came to Canada to apologize for the church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

In the 1800s and 1900s, the federal government tried to separate Indigenous Peoples from their language and culture by removing children from their families and sending them to church-run residential schools.

Many of the children suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of clergy who worked there. Last year, Canadians began coming to terms with what it meant that unmarked graves are located near many of the former schools.

The Iqaluit priest predicted Francis “will not make a miracle” by repairing the damage the church did to generations of Indigenous Peoples, but said the apology could “start a small bridge” that will grow.

Catholics in Iqaluit say they’re excited that their Holy Father is coming to the capital of Nunavut.

When Perreault asked for a show of hands of how many parishioners plan to attend the Pope’s community event Friday afternoon outside Nakasuk Elementary School, close to every one of the approximately 75 people at Sunday’s mass signalled they will be there.

“We are humbled that, even in his penance, he is coming to make an apology and [help] reconciliation with the Nunavummiut,” said Norma Ablay, who has attended Our Lady of the Assumption for nearly 10 years.

Ablay met Francis in Rome in 2017, when 13 members of the Iqaluit parish made a pilgrimage to the Vatican. Meeting him brought Ablay, who serves as an assistant at the church and a bookkeeper, to tears.

“It’s almost like the Holy Spirit is coming in to me,” she said.

Rodney Sulcan, a deacon at the church, said Francis’ visit is “an important event” to Catholics.

“They’re looking forward to meeting the Pope,” he said. “The community welcomes that because it’s part of the healing process [for Indigenous Peoples.]”

Merci Vergara, who has worshipped at Iqaluit’s Catholic church for 10 years, said she’s “excited” that Francis is coming to town, but wonders why he’s only spending the afternoon in Nunavut’s capital but about three days in each of Edmonton and Quebec City.

“I wish he would spend a little bit more — just a few minutes more. We don’t get enough time to speak to him.”

With the papal visit less than a week away, there are hardly any indications that a world leader — with his official entourage, security personnel and dozens of reporters in tow — is on his way.

The church’s regular mass schedule has been altered on Thursday and Friday because of the visit.

The City of Iqaluit issued a road-closure notice last week. But there are few signs of preparations for a stage, sound system or portable washrooms outside the Nakasuk school.

On Saturday night, a group of young people played basketball in the open area where thousands of people are expected to meet the Pope.

When Perreault asked his parishioners who planned to attend on Friday, there was some murmuring among the flock, some of whom sounded surprised the papal visit is so soon.

“Yes, Friday … Yes, this Friday!” he told them.


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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    The canadian taxpayer in on the hook for over $20,000,000 for this publicity stunt. Both the govt and the church are responsible for these atrocities, but the church has billions of dollars while were in debt billions. Not to mention the hundreds of millions that have already been paid out by the Feds over these atrocities.

    • Posted by Survivors on

      Obviously you weren’t a victim of residential schools, otherwise you might have a clue.
      As per usual, your yt privilege and ignorance is on display.

      • Posted by Nattering Nabob on

        867 is a high speed outrage algorithm, his / her commentary becomes very predictable once you start understanding it this way.

      • Posted by 867 on

        No I was not and I can sympathize with all the survivors, this was one of the darkest times in canada history. The constant finger pointing at the church from our current government is problematic though. Both were responsible for the genocide of indiginous cultures and nothing can change that. Let’s not forget who the father of our current PM is and what he was responsible for.

        • Posted by enosamm on

          The Feds have apologized several times and have backed it up with money directly to the victims and their families plus they have funded programs that support healing for the victims families. I think the Canadian government has done a lot to make things right. They can always do more and I am sure they will.

          The churches involved need to step up now, words mean little if there is no action to go along with it and catholic church has been providing very little talk and next to no action. Next steps should be the same as what is happening in NFLD right now, liquidate the assets and pay for more community healing programs.

  2. Posted by Not representative on

    What is the sentiment among Inuit?

    Can you forgive the the unforgivable?

    • Posted by It Can Be Done on

      If the Acadians can forgive, then the Inuit can.

      • Posted by Well on

        1. It would be interesting to hear what Acadians think about that comment.
        2. Some of us remember the Inquisition era, obviously not directly, but from our education, and are as a result very untrusting of the Catholic church and other religious institutions.

        • Posted by Them All on

          I think this is a reference to the “foregiveness” practiced by a certain pope who is infimous for ordering “kill them all, let god sort them out.”
          Is the current pope here to forgive his predecessor, too?

        • Posted by Opinions Will Vary on

          I, an Acadian, wrote this comment – obviously I don’t speak for all of my culture and ethnic group, but I do believe my attitude to be common.

  3. Posted by Oh Ima on

    All denominations teach forgiveness as they know what they would do to indigenous peoples and women. It is all part of their cult teaching.

    • Posted by Business as usual on

      Superficial and excessively cynical, on par with most of your commentary Oh Ima

  4. Posted by Iqaluit man on

    Father Daniel is a wonderful man! Iqaluit is so lucky to have him. God bless you Father Daniel!


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