Pope could visit Canada as part of reconciliation process, Vatican says


Shoes are seen on a path to the former Brandon Indian Residential School on June 12, 2021. Researchers – in partnership with the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation – have located 104 potential graves at the site in Brandon, Manitoba. (Photo: Catholic Press Service)

By Cindy Bois

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis is ready to visit Canada as part of the “long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples,” the Vatican press office said.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops invited the Pope to visit the country, the press office said on October 27, although no date or time for the trip was mentioned.

A delegation of indigenous leaders, accompanied by several bishops, are scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in December to hear their experiences of how they and their people have been treated by Catholics in Canada, with particular attention to the impact on The Indigenous communities of residential schools in Canada, many of which were run by religious orders or Catholic dioceses.

“Pope Francis will meet and listen to the indigenous participants, in order to discern how he can support our common desire to renew relationships and to walk together on the path of hope in the years to come,” said the conference of bishops in a press release after their September meeting.

“We are committed to working with the Holy See and our Indigenous partners on the possibility of a Pope’s pastoral visit to Canada as part of this healing journey,” the bishops said.

The statement was part of the bishops’ first formal apologies at a conference to the indigenous peoples of Canada.

Recognizing the “grave abuses” perpetuated, the bishops acknowledged “the suffering experienced in residential schools in Canada. Many religious communities and Catholic dioceses participated in this system, which led to the suppression of indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, without respecting the rich history, traditions and wisdom of indigenous peoples.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action called for such an apology from the entire Church in Canada.

He also said: “We call on the Pope to apologize to the survivors, their families and their communities for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations children. , Inuit and Métis in the residential schools. We ask that this apology be similar to the 2010 apology presented to Irish victims of abuse and that it be made within one year of the publication of this report and that it be presented by the Pope in Canada. “

Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Saskatchewan, who will travel with Indigenous representatives in December, told Catholic News Service in June that the pope’s involvement is important to many Indigenous peoples.

First of all, he said, “most indigenous peoples, especially indigenous Catholics, regard the Pope as the leader” and “when there is a wound between families, the fathers are engaged in the reconciliation process ”.

So, he said, many Indigenous Canadians look to the Pope “to be connected, to take ownership and to speak for the church.”

Asking the Pope to formally apologize on Canadian soil is not an arbitrary request, the archbishop said. “The land is so central to Indigenous spirituality that meeting people on their land is vital in terms of relationship.

Residential schools have long been at the heart of discussions and reconciliation efforts between Indigenous Canadians and the Catholic Church. The problem became urgent in late May when the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported that using ground-penetrating radar, approximately 215 bodies had been found in unmarked graves on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, run by a Catholic religious order. until 1969. Similar discoveries followed at the sites of other residential schools.

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