When Fr. Cristino Bouvette was chosen to be the national liturgical coordinate for Pope Francis’ visit to Canada, he says he couldn’t believe it.
Bouvette seemed to be a perfect choice. He’s Cree-Metis on his father’s side, and Italian on his mother’s. Plus, he’s fluent in Italian.
“This is something in my wildest dreams that I’d never be doing or being asked to do,” Bouvette told APTN News. “Of course, it’s a huge honour. It’s a huge burden, too.
“I don’t want to get it wrong. There’s a lot that needs to be done, in a very particular way, in a very tight time, but at the same time there are people whose hearts and souls are wrapped up in this.”
Bouvette, who lives in Calgary, said he had some conflicting emotions when he heard about call to action No. 58 in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. It called for the Pope to apologize for the harm caused by residential schools in Canada.
Bouvette’s grandmother was a survivor who attended the Edmonton Indian Residential School operated by the United Church.
“I was already a priest then; it stirred something in me,” he said. “Generally, just confusion about how I was to feel.
So I talked about it with (my) Kookum and asked about her perspective. How did she feel about this? Did she think this was necessary? She had a different perspective.
“Because of where she was at in her life, and the path of reconciliation she herself had walked and experienced, she did not need to hear an apology from the Pope on Canadian soil.”
Bouvette said his grandmother, who died in 2019 at the age of 99, would be proud of his work.
“The joy, the honour that it would bring her, is a part of what motivated me throughout this process, as well.”
Bouvette has seen a wide range of reactions from parishioners about the visit and apology.
“There are those who are adamantly against the Pope coming to Canada,” he said. “They probably see this as too much an opportunity for the Church to get off the hook.
“I respect the people who have that perspective. I don’t agree with it because I know that it is not what we are trying to accomplish through this. But I do know, there are others who are so elated, especially with the elders.”