Missionary priest, Fr. Edward Shatov, reacts to Pope Francis’ message to the Bishops, priests, religious and pastoral workers of Canada, saying it sets the Church on a path to healing and renewal.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Canada’s bishops, priests, religious and pastoral workers prayed the Vespers with Pope Francis at the Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral-Basilica on the evening of the fifth day of his penitential pilgrimage.
In his homily, the Holy Father encouraged them, as pastors and leaders to make Jesus known through their pastoral creativity, be witnesses of Christ, and live in fraternity – brothers and sisters all.
The Pope’s words struck home with those present at the event and Assumptionist Father, Edward Shatov, who has been working in Québec for the past 12 years, highlights the importance of the message for the Church in Canada.
Important elements for Christians
Reflecting on the Pope’s exhortation to the clergy, Fr. Shatov describes it as containing “important elements” for Christians and every human person – first, announcing Jesus; witnessing to him and allowing “God save what is important to be saved” in every one; and fraternal life which is the mark of the disciples of Jesus in the Gospel of John.
Fr. Shatov likens these three elements to “important pearls” in jewellery – spiritual jewellery – which make us think of beauty, “because God is not only good but also beautiful.”
These three elements, according to the priest of the Order of the Augustinians of the Assumption, are linked with an important component, which is prayer.
Fr. Shatov, therefore, stresses the necessity of spending time in personal prayer, which should also expand to include community prayer, prayers for the needs of the Church and the world. These, of course, join with the prayers at the celebration of the Eucharist.
A time of healing
Pope Francis has described his Apostolic Journey to Canada as a “penitential pilgrimage” to express his closeness to the Indigenous peoples of the country in light of the sufferings they experienced in the past, particularly in the residential school system. On Monday, the Holy Father apologized to the Indigenous peoples and implored God’s forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.
Fr. Shatov appreciates the Pope’s presence in the country, noting that it is a time “to be healed, to take new steps, to explore unexploited journeys…and to choose a new path.”
One of the high points for the priest was Pope Francis’ moment of prayer at the tomb of St. François de Laval, the first Bishop and one of the founders of the Church in Québec, who worked to save the dignity of others “because God saves the dignity of every human being.”
He adds that the Holy Father’s Penitential Pilgrimage “is a moment of spiritual communion to acknowledge the wounds and the pain of the First Nations and Indigenous people, but also to ask for strength and help from God to work all together to heal these wounds and to grow all together” into the fullness of the human being revealed in Christ.
A new beginning?
Fr. Shatov does not know whether the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Canada can be the start of “new beginnings” as we are “inscribed in history and in the human story”, but he expresses hopes for the future.
“What I deeply believe from this pilgrimage,” the priest says, is that “we could be conscious that we have a past – a sometimes very painful past – and we could be victims or the torturers,” depending on how things happened.
“But from this moment on, we can decide, with the help of God, not to be the prisoners of our past and to leave the prison of our past.”
Today, Fr. Shatov continues, “the Holy Father spoke about joy and renewal and to take a new path and move forward.”