First Nations Indigenous delegation Rome Vatican Pope Francis

First Nations delegation optimistic that an apology for residential schools is forthcoming

“The most powerful words that I heard Pope Francis speak today was his expression of sorrow and shame on behalf of the Church.”

Members of a Canadian First Nations delegation met with Pope Francis at the Vatican today as part of a path towards truth and reconciliation. The Assembly of First Nations delegation asked the Pope to revoke papal decrees that date back hundreds of years and were used to justify the seizure of Indigenous land in the Americas.

Another goal for the delegation is extracting an official apology from Pope Francis on behalf of the Catholic church, who ran the majority of Canada’s residential schools for Indigenous children. As per the church’s history, an apology is more likely to take place on Canadian soil, and members of the Assembly of First Nations are optimistic that the Pope will make the trip and deliver the apology.

The Assembly of First Nations Vatican Delegation.

In a press conference following today’s private meeting, which lasted for two hours, an hour longer than what was scheduled (and wherein, reportedly, the delegation members did most of the talking), Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty from the Cree First Nation of Waswanipi commented on what Pope Francis had to say.

“In our encounter today, the Pope spoke about the genuine sense of community that we exhibited as First Nations. He also spoke about his appreciation for our (spirituality) and our care for the environment. He spoke about how we were rejected ethnically in (a religious context) and discriminated against, and that the colonial system was a devastation to our identity.

“The most powerful words that I heard him speak today was his expression of sorrow and shame on behalf of the Church. He did confirm the Church was standing with us. He acknowledged our hurt, our abuse and our mistreatment. He expressed his respect for our communities and his appreciation for how we brought children forward as part of our message and that these children were the centre of what we wanted to bring in meeting him.”

—Grand Chief Mandy Gull-Masty

All three First Nations delegations that are currently in Rome will meet with Pope Francis on Friday, this time in public.

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