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Vatican Should Return Indigenous Artifacts and Indian Residential School Records

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Sometimes the Vatican can seem so obsessed with the papal bulls and encyclicals, and its frequent damage control rounds, and dealing with people’s wickedness, and calculating the number of angels shaking their loot on pinheads. , that he forgets the gospel according to Robert Fulghum.

“Don’t take things that don’t belong to you. “

“Put things back where you found them. “

As most of those who have fallen for a bestseller know, this was part of Fulghum’s formula for a virtuous life contained in his book Everything I Really Need to Know That I Learned From Home. kindergarten.

It turns out that over the decades, the Popes – especially the apparently avid artifact collector Pius XI – have amassed hundreds of artefacts from the Indigenous peoples of Canada, including an ancient sealskin kayak from western arctic.

When the news broke, Inuvialuit leaders in the area released a statement demanding the return of the kayak and all Indigenous artifacts kept in the Vatican Museum.

While the Vatican says the kayaking was a gift, the statement said “it is not the ‘pope’s kayak’ and rightfully belongs to the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, where its lessons and importance can benefit the culture. and the Inuvialuit communities.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has said it would be ready to help “mediate this conversation with the Vatican.”

It shouldn’t take a lot of mediation. Or a lot of conversations.

Grace, good manners, and basic decency – not to mention the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which supports the repatriation of such items – suggest that returning the kayak is the right thing to do.

And kayaking is not the most important thing Pope Francis needs to order the return to this country.

For nearly a century, the Catholic Church and representatives of other faiths have operated residential schools in Canada on behalf of the federal government.

These schools have become a source of trauma for indigenous peoples and a constant source of shame for the country.

Even now, anonymous graves of innocent people are being discovered across the country. And just as there is no reconciliation without truth and without confessing, there can be no peace for families and communities if they are denied access to material that could explain what happened to their loved ones. .

According to the findings of researchers at the University of Ottawa, published in November, some of this material is likely to be found in the vast repositories of the Vatican archives.

“These documents belong to Canada,” said Brenda Macdougall, then chair of research in Métis family and community traditions.

“They belong above all to the people. . . They have to come back through a subpoena or church. The Pope himself can suspend canon law and return them.

Not that the Vatican does not know the basic principle contained in the book of Fulghum. After all, he has his own book.

It contains the Ten Commandments, one of which is: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.”

Scholars say that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting things. Even things belonging to others, provided there is agreement and compensation. This is how the trade began.

What is bad for the soul is to covet what does not belong to us, has not been paid and belongs to another “or is due”.

What is due is obvious. It’s time to return the kayak. And turn over the residential school records.