Canadian Delegation of Indigenous People to Meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican



CCCB Statement – Delegation to the Holy See
Thursday, June 10, 2021
The Catholic Bishops in Canada have genuinely heard the sincere invitation to engage wholeheartedly with the past and are deeply committed 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. With the strong encouragement of Pope Francis, the Bishops of Canada have pledged true and deep commitment to renewing and strengthening relationships with Indigenous Peoples across the land. In recent years, regional and diocesan listening circles have taken place across the country in order to hear the stories from local Indigenous communities and their hopes for the future. Mutual listening is the beginning of our common efforts to bring about shared and long-lasting reconciliation, authentic healing and bridge building.

In conversation with Indigenous people and communities, both at the local and national levels, and bilaterally with the First Nations, M├ętis and Inuit national organizations, the Bishops, sponsors of this project, have been preparing, for over two years now, a delegation of Indigenous people to meet with the Holy Father to foster meaningful encounters of dialogue and healing. This pastoral visit will include the participation of a diverse group of Elders/Knowledge Keepers, residential school survivors and youth from across the country. The event will likewise provide Pope Francis with a unique opportunity to hear directly from Indigenous Peoples, express his heartfelt closeness, address the impact of colonization and the implication of the Church in the residential schools, so as to respond to the suffering of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma.

The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has stalled this project; however, the Bishops remain committed to moving forward with the delegation prior to the end of 2021, in compliance with international travel guidelines.

The delegation to the Holy See represents an important step on the journey of reconciliation and shared healing for Indigenous Peoples and the Church in Canada. Pope Francis, in his 6 June 2021 Angelus message, spoke about the shocking discovery of children’s remains at the former Kamloops residential school and, while conveying sorrow and solidarity, emphasized the importance of “walking side by side in dialogue and in mutual respect in the recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the sons and daughters of Canada”. It is our hope that these forthcoming encounters – and the important collaboration and partnership that has supported the planning – will lead to a shared future of peace and harmony between Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church in Canada.

10 June 2021

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