EDITORIAL – Pope’s apology was an imperfect but momentous gesture

An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

CRITICISM OF THE POPE’S APOLOGY began as soon as it was delivered yesterday. It “fell short,” as many said.

I’m trying to understand why that’s the case. As a mostly Caucasian person, I don’t pretend to be capable of comprehending the pain of those who have grown up with the heavy burden of what happened at Canada’s residential schools.

I don’t know what my several indigenous ancestors might have thought about the words of Pope Francis yesterday and as he continues his penitential pilgrimage this week. And yet, we’re all in this together — indigenous and non-indigenous — and all voices need to be part of the conversation.

The words I heard from the pope were humble, heart-felt and sincere. The words “sorry,” “sorrow” and “forgiveness” were prominent in his 1,500-word apology.

One of the major misgivings about his speech is that he didn’t apologize for the collective deeds of the church. It’s an understandable concern but he did come very close when he said, “In the face of this deplorable evil, the church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children. I myself wish to reaffirm this, with shame and unambiguously.”

Another criticism is that he didn’t offer enough in the way of actions. And yet, he did promise concrete action in future, including a major investigation, though he didn’t outline details. Begging forgiveness “is only the first step,” he said.

By the way, he also expressed regret for not being able to come to Kamloops.
It was a momentous event even if the apology was imperfect. “… No effort to beg pardon and to seek to repair the harm done will ever be sufficient,” Pope Francis acknowledged.

Whether or not to accept the apology he was asked to give is, of course, a matter of individual choice, but forgiving its imperfections, and receiving it as one important step, would seem a good way to move forward.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.

Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (9483 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on EDITORIAL – Pope’s apology was an imperfect but momentous gesture

  1. Indigenous peoples, particularly in the LandBack movement, have been asking the Pope for years to officially renounce the church’s “Doctrine of Discovery” upon which the conquest and pillage of the Americas (and elsewhere) was based (and justified). Unless this happens, any apology will be, indeed, imperfect and incomplete…

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