Currents News Staff
Members of Canada’s Assembly of First Nations marched out of the Vatican Apostolic Palace chanting and beating drums.
They had just finished a two-hour meeting with Pope Francis during which they shared how their communities were scarred by emotional, physical, and sexual abuse committed throughout Canada’s 130 government-funded residential schools. Nearly three-quarters of which were run by Catholic congregations.
“We’re here at this really divine moment to allow the messengers here to share the voices of our people,” said Northwest Territories Regional Chief Gerald Antoine, “that the things that happen to us, should never have happened. Unfortunately it has, it has it’s history. And so we’re here to tell you the truth.”
Among their requests for reparations is that Pope Francis travel to Canada to offer a formal apology to Indigenous Canadian communities on behalf of the Catholic Church.
“Our preference is for the Holy Father to come to Canada,” said survivor Phil Fontaine, “apologize on Canadian soil, and do it on one of our territories. That is our hope and wish, and we made that very clear to the Holy Father.”
The focus of their meeting was to share their reality with the pontiff. They say they were encouraged by his willingness to listen to their stories and hear their concerns, such as those over the thousands of unmarked graves on the properties of former residential schools.
“I feel that the Pope and the Church has expressed a sentiment of working towards reconciliation,” said Grand Chief of Cree First Nation Mandy Gull-Masty. “He shared words about the shame and sorrow that the Church feels for the history concerning the unmarked graves.”
On Friday, Pope Francis will gather with the entire group and deliver an address. While the Holy Father said he will travel to Canada, no date for a visit has been announced.