Darwin Toivo, a member of the BCHA, forwarded me the letter he recently sent to the Mayor of Philadelphia. Darwin argues that the city shouldn’t have paid for a Catholic mass during the Pope’s recent visit to the city to investigate the city’s issues with homelessness. You can read his letter below.
In March, a coalition of religious organizations similarly invited Pope Francis to walk Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The Vancouver Courier reported that on a trip to the Vatican this week, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson intends to repeat that invitation.
Bringing international attention to the issues facing the residents of the Downtown Eastside is a commendable goal and it’s good to hear Pope Francis speak out on social justice issues more and more.
However, the original invitation called for the Pope to “celebrate Mass from a barge in English Bay.”
In no way should a diverse and secular city like Vancouver be sponsoring an explicitly religious service, particularly in light of the the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that city councils should not open with a prayer. If the Pope and local Catholic dioceses wish to fund such a service, that’s their prerogative.
The money spent on such a service would be far better spent providing services and improving conditions, rather than a publicity stunt.
While a meeting of the Pope and local aboriginal peoples could help reconciliation for the survivors of Canada’s residential schools, the Pope should heed one of the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission:
We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.
Some of our members are writing to Mayor Robertson with their objections. If you’d like to tell Mayor Robertson that the city should not be sponsoring religious services, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure to cc us at email@example.com.