Indigenous delegates will meet privately with the Pope during the visit to the Vatican in December

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops says that between 25 and 30 indigenous people will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in December.

Delegates will include elders, knowledge workers, residential school survivors, and youth. A small group of Canadian bishops will also attend Dec. 17-20.

“The road to healing and reconciliation is long, but we believe it will be an important milestone in the Catholic Church’s commitment to renew, strengthen and reconcile relationships with indigenous peoples across the country,” said Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian bishops. it said in a press release Wednesday.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates will have private meetings with the Pope, during which they will tell personal stories about the legacy of residential schools.

The theme of the delegation is how indigenous peoples and the Catholic Church can unite towards healing and reconciliation. The Canadian bishops will cover travel expenses and provide mental health workers for the trip.

“With this delegation, we look forward to walking together in a new way, listening humbly, and discerning the next steps the Church can take to support survivors of residential schools, their families, and their communities,” Poisson said.

An estimated 150,000 indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools over a century. More than 60 percent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

Indigenous delegates will also be able to share their expectations about the pope’s visit to Canada, the bishops said.

Last month, the Vatican announced that Pope Francis is willing to make the visit, but indigenous leaders have said he must come with an apology.

Apologies have intensified since the discovery last spring of hundreds of unnamed graves on former residential school sites.

The indigenous delegates will meet privately with Pope Francis during the visit to the Vatican. #PopeFrancis #ResidentialEscuelas

Previous calls have gone unanswered, including during a previous indigenous delegation with former Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. He expressed his regret and “personal anguish” but never apologized.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally asked the Pope in 2017 to consider an apology.

The final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission urged the Pope to issue an apology “for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations children, the Inuit and the Metis in the residential schools run by Catholics. “

The Indigenous Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to assist residential school survivors and their family members who experience trauma caused by memories of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

This Canadian Press report was first published on November 10, 2021.

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