Skip to content

Indigenous leaders to meet with Pope Francis seeking apology for residential schools

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says an Indigenous delegation will visit the Vatican in December
Pope Francis speaks from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter’s Square at The Vatican to a crowd of faithful and pilgrims gathered for the Sunday Angelus noon prayer, on June 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Domenico Stinellis

A delegation of Indigenous leaders will visit the Vatican later this year to press for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says an Indigenous delegation will visit the Vatican between Dec. 17 and 20 to meet with Pope Francis and “foster meaningful encounters of dialogue and healing.”

Patricia D’Souza, director of communications for the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, says her organization is involved in arranging a visit to the Vatican and discussions are ongoing.

Kat Patenaude of the Manitoba Métis Federation also says the Indigenous leaders’ visit to the Vatican is currently scheduled for December.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says Pope Francis extended the invitation and is deeply committed to hearing directly from Indigenous people.

The bishops say he wants to express his heartfelt closeness, address the impact of colonization and the role of the church in the residential school system, in the hopes of responding to the suffering of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma.

The bishops did not say in their statement whether the Pope will offer an apology.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Vatican in 2017 and personally asked Pope Francis to apologize for the church’s role in the institutions.

On Friday, Trudeau reiterated his call for the pope to come to Canada and apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church.

Trudeau made the comments after Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan announced it had located 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Residential School, a few weeks after what are believed to be 215 bodies of Indigenous children were found in British Columbia.

Some 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly sent to residential schools, where many suffered abuse and even death.

The findings in Kamloops and Cowessess have sparked national outrage and grief, and has led to mounting calls for the federal government and church to investigate more potential school burial sites.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.