By Currents News Staff
In April, four delegations from Canada’s Indigenous communities traveled to the Vatican to tell the highest levels of the Church about the historic effects of abuses inflicted on their peoples in residential schools, and hear Pope Francis speak these words.
“For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church,” Pope Francis said. “I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am greatly pained. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in apologizing,”
Now, the pontiff is returning the visit with a six-day trip to Canada where he will meet again with Indigenous groups on their native lands.
“For Pope Francis to come to Canada and provide that apology to more survivors and give those survivors a little bit more support down their pathway for healing, if that’s what they need, that’s very important,” said Cassidy Caron, President, Métis National Council.
The Holy Father will visit the cities of Edmonton and Québec, as well as native lands so remote that he will travel to the edge of the Arctic circle. Yet Indigenous communities are hoping for more than just apologies from the Pope.
“We also are hoping for more commitment to action,” said Caron. “Some of those include reparations for Métis residential school survivors, because that has never taken place. We need access to unfettered access to all Church records.”
Among their requests is that Indigenous artwork housed in the Vatican Museums be returned to Canada. The Vatican maintains that they were gifts from Indigenous peoples, but has not closed the door on returning certain items.
Breaking from standard procedure, Pope Francis’ first stop will not be with his destination country’s political leaders.
He will meet with Indigenous groups first, before meeting with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday.
The agenda reflects the pontiff’s characterization of the journey as a “penitential pilgrimage.”