People from Masakahiken Cree Nation hug in front of a memorial at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School People from Masakahiken Cree Nation hug in front of a memorial at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School  (AFP or licensors)

Canadian Bishops: Pope's meetings with Indigenous seek to address trauma

The Bishops of Canada confirm several Indigenous delegations will meet with Pope Francis in coming days, and express their hopes that the encounters will address the trauma and suffering caused by residential schools.

By Francesca Merlo

A statement released by the Press Office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) confirmed an announcement made on Wednesday by the Holy See Press Office.

"This weekend, a delegation of 32 Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth will journey together from across the country to meet with Pope Francis."

Delegates from across Canada

Canada's Bishops say the "delegates, who were selected in collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Métis National Council (MNC), and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), bring a depth of lived experience and insight on the legacy of residential schools and the impacts of colonialism, with many directly engaged in the ongoing journey of healing and reconciliation."

Their names have been published by the AFN and the MNC, respectively, although some have preferred to remain anonymous. Representatives will participate in a media briefing on 28 March.

“As Canadian Bishops, we are grateful to these delegates for walking with us on this journey and to Pope Francis for his attention to their suffering and his deeply-held commitment to social justice,” said CCCB President, Bishop Raymond Poisson.

“We expect that these private encounters will allow the Holy Father to meaningfully address both the ongoing trauma and legacy of suffering faced by Indigenous Peoples to this day, as well as the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system, which contributed to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality.”

Postponed due to Covid

The meeting with Pope Francis was originally announced by the CCCB in November of 2021, shortly after a formal apology by the Catholic Bishops of Canada to indigenous peoples for the Church’s role in staffing residential schools was released.

Canada’s Bishops had unanimously approved a statement which recognized that “grave abuses” had been committed by some in the Catholic community, and expressed their “profound remorse” and apologized “unequivocally.”

In the statement issued on Friday, they said abuses took place which were “physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual.”

At the time of the original announcement last November, CCCB president Bishop Raymond Poisson said, “The journey towards healing and reconciliation is a long one, but we believe this will be a significant milestone in the Catholic Church’s commitment to renewing, strengthening and reconciling relationships with Indigenous Peoples across the land.”

25 March 2022, 09:56