Catholic Church is being persecuted, says Canadian bishops’ conference head

La Croix International [France]

July 5, 2021

Archbishop Richard Gagnon says there is “a lot of blame, a lot of accusations, a lot of exaggerations, a lot of false ideas” over gravesite discoveries at former Church-run residential schools

The president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has in a recent homily said that the Church in Canada is being persecuted because of attention to gravesite discoveries at former residential schools.

Residential schools are “a big thing right now in Canada and I know that we Catholics, we’re troubled, we’re hurt by this a lot in our hearts”, Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg said in his homily on Sunday.

 Archbishop Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he is getting “bombarded a lot,” and that in dealing with the media, he’s noticing “a lot of blame, a lot of accusations, a lot of exaggerations, a lot of false ideas,” reported The Globe and Mail.

“And so I say in my heart… You know something? There’s a persecution happening here,” the archbishop said three days after a preliminary search with ground-penetrating radar found 751 unmarked graves at the site of a former Catholic-run residential school in Saskatchewan.

His homily that was livestreamed online and posted on YouTube by the Archdiocese of Winnipeg came under much criticism from indigenous communities.

“It’s very hard for me to articulate how outraged, disappointed, angry I am, to hear anybody in his position, given what’s happened, talk about feeling that the church in any way is being persecuted,” said Maurice Switzer, a citizen of the Mississaugas of Alderville First Nation who serves on the Indigenous Reconciliation Advisory Group of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“To me, this just speaks to systemic racism at the highest levels of our society – that anybody, in the wake of what’s being found out, would in any way suggest that they are a victim, given what’s transpired.”

Catholics too were upset with the archbishop, according to the report.

“Extremely disappointed. Sad. Offended. Embarrassed,” said George Valin, a retired Ontario Superior Court judge, is one of them.

There has been recent radar detection of more than 1,000 unmarked graves at or near former residential school that were run mostly by the Catholic Church.

From the 19th century till the 1970s more than 150,000 indigenous children were forced to attend Christian schools to assimilate themselves into the Canadian society to deal with what was once called the “Indian problem.”

Many died of tuberculosis, caused due to deplorable living conditions. Physical and sexual abuse at the hands of authorities led many others to flee.

Following the first discovery of graves in British Colombia in May-end some Catholic churches have burnt in fires that authorities are investigating as suspicious.