How do you feel about the Pope's visit to Alberta?
Whether its for Truth and Reconciliation, to represent the Catholic faith, or simply for the spectacle of seeing one of the world's most significant religious representations, how you feel about the visit is up to you.
Individual feelings, opinion and hard truths based on fact are all significant players in those feelings — but the end result is up to the individual.
It's not impossible to carry opposing feelings about the same thing. We can despise the Church for its role in the Indian Residential School system and forced assimilation practices in this country and others, at the same time, millions also turn to the same religious institution for guidance and support.
For those watching from the 'outside' — those who have no direct connection to the poisons of the residential school system — those feelings are easier to manage. They can watch the Pope, appreciate his eminent position, and at the same time recognize the trauma and tragedy of the Indigenous victims of the residential school system. But for those who were part of the residential school system or who have had profound generational effects from it, the Church is polarizing. It hurt them... and then convinced them it was helping them.
Years later, generations later, the same Church, the one the Pope is apologizing on behalf of, is where many of its 'victims' have gone to find comfort.
For those who can forgive, or find solace in that comfort, the two worlds can live together. And those who cannot forgive can't fully understand those who can — and live instead in a world of constant and understandable conflict.
Both stances, although not perfect, are understandable. And that may be the over-arching answer to the question that started this piece. If you have some understanding, the Pope's visit could bring comfort, it could forge a new path forward, but it could also deepen the wound. If you have some understanding, his visit will mean what it means to you.
It is that free-will to decide — ironically, something that was forcibly taken away from thousands of Indigenous children and their families — which must now be used to understand the Pope's visit, and to interpret any apology. Being free to make your own decisions — understanding that you cannot be told, forced and ordered — that is something the tragedies of the past should teach us all to hold dear.