Last October, Pope Francis said he was willing to “visit Canada on a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation” – referring to the possible discovery of unmarked graves on the grounds of Church-run residential schools in Canada.
Now, he is set to meet with a delegation from Canada during the last week of March: the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.
“Working closely with the Vatican, new dates have been confirmed. The Holy Father is now scheduled to meet with individual Indigenous delegations the week of March 28, 2022. A final audience with all participants will take place on Friday, April 1, 2022.”
The meeting with bishops, “indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth” was originally planned for December, but postponed because of the rise in omicron cases.
“In the weeks ahead, we will monitor conditions leading up to the revised travel dates and continue our dialogue with delegates, public health officials as well as the relevant government and international authorities. [We will be] traveling only when we feel it is safe to do so.”
The delegation are expected to ask Pope Francis for an apology for the Church’s “role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”
They also are expected to ask Pope Francis to release records and return any Indigenous items in the Vatican Archives.
When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last asked for an apology, Pope Francis declined, expressing his “pain” and “sorrow” instead.