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The Pope Supports And Recognizes Indian Self Government

Pope John Paul in his address to the native people assembled at Fort Simpson reaffirmed the position of the Church in support of the rights of Indian people. He spoke in support of self-government, human justice and a settlement for equitable land base. He spoke of the Church's role and response to see that these areas be carried out and respected.

The Pope was unable to land at Fort Simpson due to inclement weather, much to the disappointment of the people. Below are excerpts from the speech he gave to the people at Fort Simpson from Yellowknife via video.

The preaching of the Gospel of Christ is linked to human advancement. The contribution of the missionaries and their support of aboriginal customs. The Pope proclaims anew the Gospel and its demands for human dignity and freedom. He renews the teaching of Pope Paul II on the rights of native peoples. The Spirit is given to us to enable us to believe in Jesus and to love one another.

In you I greet, with esteem and friendship, descendants of the first inhabitants of this land, who have lived here for centuries upon centuries. To greet you is to render respectful homage to the beginnings of human society in this vast region of North America. To greet you is to recall with reverence God's plan and Providence as they have unfolded in your history and brought you to this day. To greet you in this portion of your land is to evoke the events of human living that have taken place on the scene of God's original creation of majestic nature in these parts. At the same time my coming among you looks back to your past in order to proclaim your dignity and support your destiny.

I understand that the major aboriginal organizations - the Assembly of First Nations, the Native Council of Canada, the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, the Metis National Council - collectively decided to plan this spiritual event in this northern homeland setting. This kind of cooperation, given the diversity of cultural and religious traditions that exist among you, is a sign of hope for building solidarity among the aboriginal peoples of this country.

You have chosen as your general theme for this celebration: "self-determination and the rights of aboriginal people". On my part I am pleased to be able to reflect with you on issues that so closely touch your lives.

My presence in your midst today is intended to be another expression of the deep interest and solicitude which the Church wishes to show for the native people of the New World. In 1537, in a document entitled Pastorale Officium, my predecessor Paul III proclaimed the rights of the native peoples of those times. He affirmed their dignity, defended their freedom, asserted that they could not be enslaved or deprived of their goods or ownership. At the same time my presence marks yet another phase in the long relationship that many of you have had with the Church. It is a relationship that spans four centuries and has been especially strong since the mid-nineteenth century.

It is in this context of esteem and love that they bring you the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, along with its power to solidify your traditions by perfecting them and ennobling them even more. Their evangelization brought with it the proclamation of "the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God" (Evangelli Nuntiandi, 22).

As they preach the Gospel to you, the missionaries desire to remain close to you in your struggles and problems and in your rightful arriving to obtain the full recognition of your human and Christian dignity as aboriginal peoples, as children of God.

The Pope Supports and Recognizes Indian Self-Government

And yes, dear brothers and sisters, I have come to call you to Christ, to propose again, for you and all Canada, his message of forgiveness and reconciliation. It is clear from the historical record that over the centuries your peoples have been repeatedly the victims of injustice by newcomers who, in their blindness, often saw all your culture as inferior. Today, happily, this situation has been largely reversed, and people are learning to appreciate that there is great richness in your culture, and to treat you with greater respect.

As I mentioned in Midland, the hour has come to bind up wounds, to heal all divisions. It is a time for forgiveness, for reconciliation and for a commitment to building new relationships. Once again in the words of Saint Paul. "Now is the favourable time, this is the day of salvation" (2 Co 6:2).

My predecessor Paul VI explained very clearly that there are close links between the preaching of the Gospel and human advancement. And human advancement includes development and liberation (:cf Evangehi Nuntiandi, 30-31). And so today, in speaking to you, I present to you the Gospel message with its commandment of fraternal love, with its demands for justice and human rights and with all its liberating power.

Saint Paul wanted us all to understand the importance of Christian freedom - freedom from sin and from whatever would enslave us. It is Saint Paul who continues to cry out to the world: "When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free" (Ga 5:1). At the same time both he and Saint Peter propose to us the principle that freedom must not be an excuse for license (df Ga 5:13; 1 P 2:16).

Today I want to proclaim that freedom which is required for a just and equitable measure of self- determination in your own lives as native peoples. In union with the whole Church I proclaim all your rights - and their corresponding duties. And I also condemn physical, cultural and religious oppression, and all that would in any way deprive you or any group of what rightly belongs to you.

It is clearly the position of the Church that people have a right in public life to participate in decisions affecting their lives: "Participation constitutes a right which is to be applied both in the economic and in the social and political fields" (Iustitia in Mundo, 1; cf Gaudium et Spes, 75).

This is true for everyone. It has particular applications for you as natives peoples, in your striving to take your rightful place among the peoples of the earth, with a just and equitable degree of self-governing. For you a land-base with adequate resources is also necessary for developing a viable economy for present and future generations. You need likewise to be in a position to develop your lands and your economic potential, and to educate your children and plan your future.

I know that negotiations are in progress and that much goodwill has been shown by all parties concerned. It is my hope and prayer that a totally satisfactory outcome will be had.

Dear friends, dear native peoples of Canada, as you reflect on your history and work, in collaboration with all your brothers and sisters, in order to shape your own destiny and contribute to the total common good, remember always that your dependence on God is manifested by your observance of his commandments. These are written in your hearts and are summarized by Saint John when he says: "His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to. Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him. We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us" (1 Jn 3:23-24). It is the Spirit that enables us to believe in Jesus and to love one another.