January 11, 2016
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS

OTTAWA - While the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls on churches to affirm Aboriginal spirituality, Archbishop Gerard Pettipas says the Church will continue to follow Jesus' call to evangelize to all nations.

Pettipas, however, said the issue is going to require more dialogue.

The Catholic Church's emphasis on new evangelization calls on the Church "to evangelize anew, to bring the Gospel and share it with others," he said in an interview.

"I've never believed in forcing people to accept Jesus Christ," the archbishop said. "You cannot force people to have faith; it's a question of individual conscience and choice."

The call for churches to affirm native spirituality grew out of a sense that through the residential school system, "their own spirituality and customs were denigrated," he said.

"There is no way as a Church we are going to deny our commission from Jesus Christ to evangelize," he said. "But the way that is best exercised is through freedom and not through any kind of coercion."

DIALOGUE NEEDED

"This is where a call to action around those kinds of issues, I think would have to happen in dialogue."

While the vast majority of Christian leaders and ministers recognize and accept the validity of other peoples' beliefs, "their having a faith is not going to stop me from being who I am," Pettipas said.

"If someone is seeking faith or asks me about Jesus Christ and the Christian Church I'll be honest and forthright in presenting that," he said. "That doesn't prevent me from honouring their person and their culture."