Pope Francis to meet with Canadian indigenous leaders and Catholic bishops next week – Catholic World Report
Vatican City, March 23, 2022 / 10:15 a.m. (CNA).
Pope Francis will meet with a delegation of Canadian Indigenous and Catholic bishops at the Vatican from March 28 to April 1, the Vatican confirmed Wednesday.
From March 28-31, the Pope will meet individually with indigenous groups, before a final audience on April 1 in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall. Members of the Canadian Episcopal Conference will also be in attendance.
The delegation’s week-long visit will also include attendance at the Pope’s Sunday Angelus and Wednesday General Audience, as well as a private visit to the Vatican Museums.
The visit was initially predicted was supposed to take place in December 2021, but was postponed due to an increase in coronavirus cases. The new dates were announced on February 1 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Counciland Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
The delegation to Rome will include “Indigenous elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors and youth,” the Feb. 1 statement said.
Pope Francis’ meeting with Indigenous peoples has been scheduled since June 2021, following the reported discovery of unmarked burial sites at the site of former residential schools in Canada.
Canada’s residential school system operated from the 1870s until 1996. First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were separated from their families and sent to schools, established by the federal government and run by Catholics and members of Protestant church communities, to force assimilation and deprive them of family and cultural ties.
The Catholic Church, or Catholic religious orders, ran more than two-thirds of the schools.
According to Canada truth and reconciliation commission, an estimated 4,100–6,000 students died while enrolled in schools. The majority of the students died of illnesses, including influenza and tuberculosis.
When the delegation members arrive at the Vatican, they intend to ask Pope Francis for an apology for the Church’s role in the residential school system, as well as the release of all records related to the residential schools and the return of any aboriginal objects from Canada that the Vatican may have in its archives.
In October 2021, Pope Francis said he would be open to the idea of a papal visit to Canada. If this visit takes place, it would be the first time that a pope has visited Canada since 2002, the year of the visit of Saint John Paul II on the occasion of World Youth Day.
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