A delegation of First Nations, Métis and Inuit will meet with the Pope separately from December 17 to 20, according to the CCCB. The entire Indigenous delegation will then have a final papal audience on December 20 to conclude the visit.
Archbishop of Winnipeg Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told CBC News that Pope Francis will speak directly to Indigenous delegates about the painful legacy of residential schools.
Gagnon said the Pope was prepared to apologize to Canada at an “opportune moment.” He said the Pope should take a similar path to the one that led to his official apology in Bolivia in 2015.
“What the Pope has said and done in Bolivia is what he will do in Canada,” he said. “But he will adapt it to the specifics of the Canadian situation. “
In Bolivia, Pope Francis apologized for the sins and crimes committed by the church against indigenous peoples during the colonial conquest of the Americas.
Gagnon said it was important for the Pope to engage with and listen to Indigenous delegates so that he could plan what Gagnon called “post-delegation activities for reconciliation.”
“It is about relationships, it is about listening, it is about dialogue and it is very dear to the heart of the Pope in this question”, declared Gagnon.
“We want him to come to our lands”
David Chartrand, vice-president of the Métis National Council, said Indigenous delegates will use their time with the Pope to urge him to apologize on Indigenous soil in Canada.
“I hope I can hear from the Pope that he understands the pain,” Chartrand said.
“We want him to come to our lands. It will mean so much to us that he comes here and expresses his declaration. “
The apology would respond to call to action number 58 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report.
The CCCB has been working with national indigenous organizations for over two years to send a delegation of indigenous representatives to meet with the Pope.
In addition to national leaders, the Indigenous delegation will be made up of elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors and youth from across the country, according to the CCCB.
The trip was supposed to have already taken place, but the pandemic has delayed those plans.
Now, following the reported discovery of anonymous graves at the sites of former residential schools in Kamloops, B.C., and the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, efforts to lay the groundwork for a formal papal apology are intensifying. .
“The Pope must apologize,” Cowessess First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme said last week after announcing the preliminary discovery of 751 anonymous graves in a cemetery near the former Marieval Indian Residential School in approximately 140 kilometers east of Regina.
“An apology is a step in the healing journey. “
The Church remains the only institution that does not formally apologize
The leaders also intend to ask the Pope to order the church to release all documents relating to the residential schools, as well as any Indigenous items seized in Canada that the Vatican may have in its coffers.
On behalf of the federal government, the Catholic Church has managed more than half of all residential schools in Canada, which were opened between 1831 and 1996.
The church also ran day schools, which functioned as boarding schools, although their students did not stay overnight.
Pope Benedict XVI expressed his “sadness” to a delegation from the Assembly of First Nations of Canada in 2009 over the abuse and “deplorable” treatment that residential school students suffered by the Roman Catholic Church.
Chartrand said Pope Francis needs to take the next step and ask for forgiveness on behalf of the church.
“He has to apologize to the people that this has happened under this mighty church,” Chartrand said.
The Roman Catholic Church is the only institution that has yet to issue a formal apology for its role in managing residential schools in Canada, although Catholic entities in Canada have apologized.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2017 to ask for an apology.
Last month, Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation repeated the call after the reported remains of approximately 215 children buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
Pope Francis said earlier this month he was saddened by the discovery and urged respect for the rights and culture of indigenous peoples, but his statement fell short of the official apology.
Chartrand said he still remains a staunch Catholic and hopes the Pope will officially apologize.
“It’s going to happen,” Chartrand said.
Chartrand also said he plans to personally raise his concerns about the future of the church with Pope Francis, especially as many have closed in Canada and several have recently been destroyed by fire.
“There is no longer a priest directly on site in most places,” Chartrand said.
” We are worried. “