By Vatican News staff writer
In a statement on Tuesday, the Bishops of Canada said that a delegation of Indigenous People is scheduled to meet with the Holy Father from 17 to 20 December 2021, “to foster meaningful encounters of dialogue and healing.”
This announcement comes after a 10 June statement from the Bishops in which they expressed their commitment to engage wholeheartedly with the past and to “take truly meaningful active steps together with Indigenous Peoples in view of a future filled with greater respect and cooperation.”
“The recent discovery of children’s remains at a burial site of a former residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, remind us of a tragic legacy still felt today,” the Bishops said.
Therefore, in conversation with indigenous people and communities, both at the local and national levels, and bilaterally with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit national organizations, the Bishops, the sponsors of the initiative, are preparing a delegation to meet with the Pope.
After that discovery in British Colombia, on 24 June the Chief of the Cowessess First Nation, announced the discovery of 751 unmarked graves of mostly Indigenous children at the cemetery of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in the southeast corner of the Saskatchewan province.
The Pope’s closeness
“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,” the Bishops’ statement said.
The visit will also provide the Pope with the opportunity to respond to “the suffering of the Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma.”
In his 6 June, 2021 Angelus message, Pope Francis spoke about the shocking discovery of the childrens’ remains at the former residential school and, expressing his closeness to the Canadian people, he noted the importance of walking “side by side in dialogue, mutual respect and recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada.”
A diverse delegation
The statement noted that the pastoral visit will include the participation of a diverse group of Elders/Knowledge keepers, residential school survivors and youth from across the nation, accompanied by a small group of Bishops and Indigenous leaders.
The Bishops also expressed their appreciation to the Holy Father for his spirit of openness in generously extending an invitation for personal encounter with each of the three distinct group of delegates – First Nations, Métis and Inuit - as well as a final audience with all the delegates together on the last day of the visit.
Concluding, the CCCB expressed its hope that the forthcoming encounters will “lead to a shared future of peace and harmony between Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church in Canada.”