Canadian bishops, indigenous leaders to meet with Pope
Washington DC (CNA) – Some Canadian bishops, along with indigenous leaders, will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican in December.
The delegations of a “small” group of Canadian bishops, along with indigenous First Nations, Inuit, and Métis leaders, will be scheduled for papal meetings at the Vatican “to foster meaningful encounters of dialogue and healing,” the Canadian bishops’ conference said.
Pope Francis is inviting each group of indigenous to a distinct meeting, the bishops said, praising “the Holy Father’s spirit of openness”.
First Nations communities are indigenous peoples who lived south of the Arctic region in modern-day Canada, while Inuit peoples lived in the Arctic region. Métis communities share both indigenous and European heritage.
All delegations will share a final audience with Pope Francis on 20 December. They will include indigenous elders, residential school survivors, youth and a small group of bishops and indigenous leaders,” the bishops’ conference said.
“Pope Francis is deeply committed to hearing directly from Indigenous Peoples, expressing his heartfelt closeness, addressing the impact of colonization and the role of the Church in the residential school system, in the hopes of responding to the suffering of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma,” the Canadian bishops said.
“The Bishops of Canada reaffirm their sincere hope that these forthcoming encounters will lead to a shared future of peace and harmony between Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church in Canada.”
The announcement comes after the recent discovery of unmarked graves of 215 indigenous children at a former Catholic-run residential school in British Columbia.
That discovery in May prompted leaders of the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council to plan a visit to the Vatican, with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to request a formal papal apology for the Church’s role in the residential school system.
At his 6 June Sunday angelus, Pope Francis expressed “sympathy” over the discovery of children’s remains, urged healing and reconciliation, and called for a “turn away from the colonizing model,” but he did not issue a formal apology.
Other Canadian bishops have apologized for the Church’s role in the residential school system, including the bishops of Alberta in 2014 and, recently, the archbishops of Vancouver and Ottawa.
The residential school system was set up by the Canadian federal government, beginning in the 1870s, as a means of forcibly assimilating indigenous children and stripping them of familial and cultural ties. Catholics and members of other Christian denominations ran the schools, although the Catholic Church or Catholics oversaw more than two-thirds of the schools.