A group of around 30 First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegates from across Canada will have private meetings with the Pope beginning December 17.
They are expected to tell personal stories about the legacy of residential schools.
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“I can only pray that we touch his heart in some way. I think we have it to a large extent now, ”said Gary Gagnon, Alberta Metis steward.
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There have been more apologies since the discovery of hundreds of unnamed graves at former residential school sites.
Like other delegates, Gagnon expects an apology from the religious organization that ran many of those schools.
“Hearing those words: ‘We’re sorry.’ And just to move on. We know it’s difficult, ”Gagnon said.
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Wilton Littlechild of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, as well as the Metis Elder and Angie Crerar, a resident of Grande Prairie, are among the Alberta delegates.
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A group of bishops will also attend, including William McGrattan of Calgary and Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton.
“The holy father wants this to happen and he wants to hear their stories,” Smith said. “It seems to me that he is going to listen to the story of pain and anguish, but he is also going to tell here the story of resistance and strength.”
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The archbishop said he expects an open and emotional dialogue at the meeting.
“The delegates speak from their hearts to the Pope and we all know well the compassionate heart of our Holy Father. It is with that heart that he will listen and it is with that heart that he will respond, ”he said.
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The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will cover travel expenses.
McGrattan hopes Pope Francis will stand in solidarity with the Canadian bishops who issued an apology earlier this year for the role of the Catholic church in the residential school system.
“I think that is why we are inviting the delegates to be present: to hear the impact and the pain that they understand. So that he understands that this is truly important for the church, for Canada and especially for the survivors, ”said the Bishop of Calgary.
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“Everyone who is part of the delegation has the opportunity to meet Pope Francis and tell him about the suffering and pain, but also the joy and hope that reconciliation can become a new reality here in Canada,” said McGrattan.
Pope Francis agreed to visit Canada to assist in reconciliation efforts.
Delegates addressing the Vatican will be able to speak with the Pope about their expectations for that visit.
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