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Father Cristino Bouvette of the Archdiocese of Calgary worked with the master of liturgical ceremonies on the trip

Dominique Montoya, 16, performs a Native American smudging ritual known as “smudging” during a sunrise service at the Tekakwitha Conference in Fargo, ND, July 26, 2014. (Photo: CNS/Nancy Wiechec )

Posted: Jul 16, 2022 05:08 GMT

Updated: July 16, 2022 at 05:19 GMT

When Pope Francis travels to Canada to apologize to Indigenous communities for how the Catholic Church has come together to uproot them from their traditional culture and spirituality, their traditions will be on full display.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples will welcome Pope Francis to their lands July 24-29 wearing their traditional clothing, speaking their languages, performing their songs and dances and sharing elements of their traditional prayer styles.

Father Cristino Bouvette, priest of the Archdiocese of Calgary, Alberta, worked with the pope’s master of liturgical ceremonies, Msgr. Diego Giovanni Ravelli, to plan masses and prayer services for the trip. Father Bouvette is Italian on his mother’s side and Cree and Métis on his father’s side.

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“For Indigenous Catholics, to see the Holy Father welcomed into a place like the Church of the Sacred Heart by having first stained the space, or by facing the four directions to offer his blessing – as simple as these gestures may appear – clearly demonstrates a sensitivity on his part to their traditions which, while apart from any particular Catholic expression of faith, are certainly not contrary to them,” the priest said in an email in response to questions.

One of the events Father Bouvette helped plan is Pope Francis’ scheduled July 25 meeting with Indigenous peoples at First Peoples’ Sacred Heart Church, which is the official First Nations and Métis parish in Edmonton. since 1993.

An elder will enter the church ahead of Pope Francis with a bowl of steaming cedar, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco – the aromatics commonly used for the “smudge” ceremony by many Native American peoples in North America. North.

“The task that is proposed to the Sacred Heart has a dual purpose: 1) To show recognition of the ritual in an observable/public way; and 2) As a ritual of purification in the space itself as a gesture of make it a “more hospitable” space to welcome the Holy Father upon his arrival,” Father Bouvette wrote in an email.

Usually the person doing the smudging uses a feather or branch to direct the smoke towards the participants who use their hands to greet it as a sign of their desire to cleanse their minds and hearts. However, Father Bouvette says, at the Sacred Heart the elder will smudge the church itself but will not direct the smoke towards the pope.

Twenty years ago, Saint John Paul II celebrated a Mass and the beatification of two indigenous men in Mexico City. At the start of the mass in 2002, Catholic News Service reported, there was “a purification ritual performed by a woman in traditional dress who gently waved medicinal herbs in front of the pope” while other women in native dress wore steaming pots of herbs. The liturgy also included dancing.

Saint John Paul, in his homily, said to the people: “The two blessed are an example of how, without considering one’s ancestral customs as myths, one can reach God without renouncing one’s own culture but allowing oneself to be enlightened by the light of Christ. , which renews the religious spirit of the best popular traditions.”

In the ongoing process of inculturation of the Church — making room for the cultural expressions of a group — Father Bouvette said that there is “a very important distinction between something that is ‘pagan’, which means nothing more than practiced by the unbaptized, and something that is blasphemous or sacrilegious.”

“Certain ‘pagan’ practices are said to be ‘sacrilegious’ because they make fun of our faith or dangerously open us up to the spiritual order where we have no control over what enters or attaches,” he said. -he says. “There are a variety of native rituals like this that I intentionally left out from the start.”

“In a Catholic context, we might see the ritual of purification as akin to the use of some of our sacramentals which are worn for personal and spiritual purposes, such as the wearing of the scapular or the anointing with oil Saint-Joseph’s Oratory” in Montreal, a practice initiated by Saint André Bessette, says Father Bouvette. Cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco are “gifts from the Creator and therefore returned to the Creator.”

“Personal purification or purification of the space where the stain occurs are the exclusive goals of the ritual,” he said.

Another indigenous practice people may see during the papal visit, Fr. Bouvette said, is to pray while facing north, south, east and west.

“We don’t pray” in “the four directions – we only pray to God, the creator,” he said. But the movement is “similar to the ancient Christian appreciation of directional orientation – like facing east at the altar as we await the second coming of Christ or facing north to proclaim the Gospel in the direction of darkness where the light of the sun does not shine. pass.”

“The importance for indigenous peoples to orient themselves in prayer to each of the cardinal directions is twofold,” he said. “First, it serves as a reminder of the omnipresence of the Creator and that all creation belongs to him.”

And second, says Father Bouvette, “each direction is equally aligned with the stages of human life: infants and children in the east; adolescents and young adults in the south; parents and middle-aged in the west; and our elders in the north. In addition to acknowledging the dignity of all human life, it also demonstrates a humble submission to the passage of time, following the direction of the sun in the sky, to which we must all submit if we seek to live in harmony and peace.”

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