Canada’s Indigenous people demand papal apology from Vatican for residential schools | The mighty 790 KFGO
By Philippe Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Indigenous people in Canada are meeting Pope Francis this week to ask him to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools where children were abused and their culture denied.
More than 30 Indigenous elders, residential school survivors and youth will meet with him repeatedly at the Vatican between Monday and Friday in what the Catholic Church in Canada has called a process of healing and reconciliation.
“We hope that these private meetings will allow the Holy Father to meaningfully address both the ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering suffered by Indigenous peoples to this day,” the Bishops of Canada said in a statement.
The meetings would also focus on “the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system, which contributed to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality,” he said.
The recurring schools scandal erupted again last year with the discovery of the remains of 215 children from the former Kamloops Indian residential school in the western Canadian province of British Columbia.
The discovery of the school, which closed in 1978, reopened old wounds and brought new demands for accountability. Hundreds of other unmarked burial sites have since been discovered.
“It’s something that’s a big step,” said Gérald Antoine, chief of the Dene people and regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, of the meetings.
He told a press conference in Canada that the delegates would ask the pope “to visit our family and apologize. I think this is a long overdue problem.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Francois to apologize during a visit to Canada.
Last October, Francis accepted an invitation from the Canadian bishops. Vatican sources say he will likely go this summer.
The stated goal of the schools was to assimilate Aboriginal children. They operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run by several Christian denominations on behalf of the government, most by the Catholic Church.
Around 150,000 children have been taken from their homes. Many were victims of abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide”.
Delegates from Inuit and Métis Peoples and the Assembly of First Nations will have three separate private meetings with the pope before he addresses everyone on Friday.
Francis was elected pope nearly two decades after the last of the schools closed. He has previously issued a generic apology for the Church’s role in colonialism in the Americas.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella. Editing by Jane Merriman)