There has been increased pressure on the pope to publicly apologize after the remains of over 200 children were found buried in unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia, last May at what had been Canada’s largest indigenous residential school. There are also unidentified remains in unmarked graves at other residential schools across Canada.

The Holy See accepted a request from the First Nations of Canada for a historic meeting between the pontiff and representatives of their religious communities. A Canadian delegation comprised of Elders, residential school survivors, and representatives of Catholic dioceses and religious groups in Canada will meet with Pope Francis after the April 29 General Audience to discuss their experiences with residential schools and the impact of colonization. The visit will be attended by the pope and several Indigenous leaders.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCB) recently visited the Holy See, inviting a delegation of Indigenous people. The Pope is uniquely positioned to recognize and address the pain of the Indigenous People who were enslaved in residential schools. In particular, the Pope can express his regret over the role of Church members in the wrongdoing. The CCCB President submitted a formal request to the Holy See through the Apostolic Nunciature in Canada.

The delegation is expected to push the issue of compensation during the meetings with the pope. They will also seek an apology from the pope for the injustices committed by the First Nations. The delegation will also ask the pope to publicly apologize for the actions of Canadian Catholics during the past century. This is the third Indigenous community to announce the discovery of 182 human remains. While the Holy Father has yet to approve the meeting request, the delegation hopes to continue the dialogue.

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By Betty C. Giordano

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