Pope Francis Canada Indigenous residential schools

Pope Francis to visit Canada for reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians

“Full recognition of harm caused in residential schools is something that is long awaited from the Holy Father himself.”

The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis is “willing” to visit Canada on a “pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation” with Indigenous Canadians. The invitation was made by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops this summer in the wake of the discovery of mass graves on the sites of former residential schools in Canada. The bishops confirmed today that the trip will take place, though the date remains TBD.

Crown Indigenous Affairs Minister Marc Miller (newly promoted from Indigenous Services Minister), reacted to the news this morning.

“Obviously, I’m not a Catholic but I think that for the Holy Father, in whom many of the faithful saw a lot of hope when he was installed, full and complete recognition of the harm caused to Indigenous peoples was at the top of the list of what they wanted to see him do in Canada. I know there are mixed views, mixed perspectives on that. But in the grand scheme of what we call reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, that full recognition of harm caused is something that is long awaited from the Holy Father himself.”

—Marc Miller

Criticism of the Catholic Church, which operated the majority of residential schools in Canada, further intensified this year after it was revealed that the Church failed to meet the terms of a landmark settlement that called on them to compensate residential school survivors.

First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders will be meeting with the Pope during a planned visit to the Vatican, from Dec. 17–20, with the goal of securing an apology, as called for in the Truth and Reconciliation report of 2015. Though there have been apologies from the Vatican to Indigenous peoples of the Americas before, including one by Pope Francis in Bolivia in 2015, there has been no formal acknowledgment of the Church’s collusion with the Canadian government in the removal of Indigenous children from their homes, and of the widespread mistreatment and abuse of the children within the institutions over the course of a century.

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