The Vatican

Francis' feminism, key to reading his trip to Canada

As is customary on papal trips, Francis held a press conference on his return to Rome. A few questions shed light on the keys to this trip to Canada.

Fernando Emilio Mignone-July 31, 2022-Reading time: 6 minutes

Photo: the Pope on the flight back to Rome. ©CNS photo/Paul Haring

Translation of the article into Italian

Translation of the article into English

The Pope gave a interpretive key of his Canadian teachings by answering reporters when he flew from Iqaluit to Rome on the evening of July 29. This trip to Canada, he explained, was closely linked to the figure of St. Anne, to the "dialectal" transmission of the faith, which is feminine because the Church is mother and spouse. 

I spoke, he said, "about old women, about mothers and about women. And I stressed that the faith is transmitted 'in the dialect' of the mother, the dialect of the grandmothers... This is very important: the role of women in the transmission of the faith and in the development of the faith. It is the mother or the grandmother who teaches how to pray, to explain the first things that the child does not understand about the faith... the Church is woman. This I wanted to say clearly with St. Anne in mind." He added a biblical reference, 2 Maccabees 7, where "it says that the mother encouraged in motherly dialect" her children to accept martyrdom.


Indeed, on July 26, Francis spoke of the transmission of culture and faith in his homily before thousands of families in a stadium in Edmonton: "We are here thanks to our parents, but also thanks to our grandparents... They were often the ones who loved us without reserve and without expecting anything from us; they took us by the hand when we were afraid, reassured us, encouraged us when we had to decide about our life. Thanks to our grandparents we received a caress from history.

Many of us have breathed in the home of our grandparents the fragrance of the Gospel, the strength of a faith that has the flavor of home. Thanks to them we discover a familiar, domestic faith; yes, it is like that, because faith is essentially communicated in this way, it is communicated 'in the mother tongue', it is communicated in dialect, it is communicated through affection and encouragement, care and closeness".

"This is our history to be guarded, the history of which we are heirs; we are children because we are grandchildren. Grandparents imprinted on us the original stamp of their way of being, giving us dignity, confidence in ourselves and in others. They passed on to us something that can never be erased.

Caring for the family

"Are we children and grandchildren who know how to guard the wealth we have received? Do we remember the good teachings we have inherited? Do we talk to our elders, do we take the time to listen to them? In our homes, more and more equipped, more and more modern and functional, do we know how to set up a worthy space to preserve their memories, a special place, a small family shrine that, through images and beloved objects, also allows us to raise our thoughts and prayers to those who have gone before us? Have we kept the Bible or the rosary of our ancestors?

Pray for them and in union with them, take time to remember them, preserve their legacy. In the fog of oblivion that assails our fast-paced times, brothers and sisters, it is necessary to take care of the roots."

Lac Sainte Anne

On the evening of July 26, the Pope was one more pilgrim at the sanctuary of Lac Sainte Anne, a meeting place for the natives. There he returned to the subject at hand.

"I think of the grandmothers who are here with us. So many of them. Dear grandmothers, your hearts are fountains from which the living water of faith flows, with which you have quenched the thirst of children and grandchildren. I admire the vital role of women in the indigenous communities. They occupy a very important position as blessed sources of life, not only physical but also spiritual. And, thinking of their kokum (grandmother in Cree language), I think of my grandmother. From her I received the first proclamation of the faith and learned that the Gospel is transmitted in this way, through the tenderness of care and the wisdom of life.

Faith is rarely born reading a book by ourselves alone in a living room, but is spread in a family atmosphere, transmitted in the language of mothers, with the sweet dialectal chant of grandmothers. I am glad to see so many grandparents and great-grandparents here. Thank you. I thank you, and I would like to say to all those who have old people at home, in the family, you have a treasure! They guard within their walls a source of life; please, take care of them as the most valuable inheritance to love and guard".

Healing wounds

"In this blessed place, where harmony and peace reign, we present to you the dissonances of our history, the terrible effects of colonization, the indelible pain of so many families, grandparents and children. Lord, help us to heal our wounds. We know that this requires effort, care and concrete deeds on our part. But we also know, Lord, that we cannot do it alone. We entrust ourselves to You and to the intercession of your mother and grandmother. ...mothers and grandmothers help to heal the wounds of the heart.

The Church is also a woman, the Church is also a mother. In fact, there has never been a time in its history when the faith was not transmitted, in the mother tongue, by mothers and grandmothers. On the other hand, part of the painful legacy we are facing is born out of having prevented indigenous grandmothers from transmitting the faith in their language and culture. This loss is certainly a tragedy, but your presence here is a testimony of resilience and of restarting, of pilgrimage towards healing, of opening the heart to God who heals our community being."

Sainte Anne de Beaupré

On July 28, at a Mass for reconciliation at the Shrine of St. Anne in Beaupré, Quebec, Francis commented on the Gospel of two disenchanted disciples on their way to Emmaus.

 "Let us break the Eucharistic Bread in faith, because around the table we can rediscover ourselves as beloved children of the Father, called to be brothers and sisters. Jesus, breaking the Bread, confirms the testimony of the women, whom the disciples had not believed, that he is risen! In this Basilica, where we remember the mother of the Virgin Mary, and where there is also the crypt dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, we must emphasize the role that God wanted to give to women in his plan of salvation. St. Anne, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the women of Easter morning indicate to us a new path of reconciliation, the maternal tenderness of so many women can accompany us - as Church - towards newly fruitful times, in which we leave behind so much sterility and so much death, and place at the center Jesus, the Crucified Risen One."

Two Canadian women 

Of the eight women who asked questions at the air press conference, the first two were Canadian. The answers are translated from Italian.

Jessica Deera descendant of survivors of the residential schools, wanted to know why the Pope had missed the opportunity to publicly reject doctrines and papal bulls from the time of the conquistadors, which led to Catholics taking possession of indigenous lands and considering their inhabitants as inferior. 

The Pope referred to the words of St. John Paul II condemning African slavery during his visit to Gorée Island, Senegal (February 22, 1992): [Isola di Gorée, la porta del non ritorno].); to Bartolomé de las Casas and St. Peter Claver; to the colonialist mentality of then and now, and to indigenous values. He ended with the following.

Pope Francis... "This 'doctrine of colonization'... is bad, it is unfair. It is also used today, perhaps with kid gloves... For example, some bishops of some countries have told me: 'In our country, when we ask for a loan from an international organization, they put conditions on us, also legislative, colonialist conditions.

To give you loans they make you change your lifestyle a little bit.' Going back to the colonization... of America, that of the English, French, Spanish, Portuguese: there are four (colonial powers) for which there has always been that danger, indeed, that mentality, 'we are superior and these Indians don't count', and this is serious.

That is why we must work on what you say: to go back and make healthy... that which has been badly done, knowing that even today there is the same colonialism. Think, for example, of a case, which is worldwide... the Rohingya, in Myanmar: they do not have the right to citizenship, they are of a lower level. Also today. Thank you very much".

Canadian Press

Brittany HobsonFrom the Canadian Press news agency: "Good afternoon, Pope Francis. You have often said that it is necessary to speak clearly, honestly, directly and with parresia. You know that the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission has described the residential school system as 'cultural genocide', and this expression has been corrected to simply 'genocide'. People who have heard your words of apology this week have lamented the fact that the term genocide was not used. Would you use this term or would you acknowledge that members of the Church have participated in this genocide?"

Pope FrancisIt is true, I did not use the word because it did not come to my mind, but I described genocide and I apologized, I apologized for this work which is genocide. For example, I also condemned this: to take away the children, to change the culture, to change the mind, to change the traditions, to change the race, let's say, a whole culture. Yes, it's a technical word - genocide - but I didn't use it because it didn't occur to me. But I described that it was true, yes, it was genocide, yes, yes, yes, relax. You say that I have said that yes, it was a genocide. Thank you."

This last answer is going to be something to talk about in Canada. We will have to see if all of the above will also be talked about. Omnes will report.

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