Pope Plans Canada Visit for Indigenous ‘Reconciliation’ amid Reckoning over School Abuse

Pope Francis has agreed to visit Canada as part of the “process of reconciliation” with its indigenous peoples, the Vatican announced Wednesday, possibly setting the stage for a formal papal apology for the Church’s role in horrific abuses perpetrated against indigenous children at its residential schools, part of Canada’s wider reckoning with its painful colonial legacy.


According to the statement from the Vatican press office, the Pope “indicated his willingness” to visit Canada at an as-yet undetermined date after an invitation from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to take part in an “historic pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.”

Last month the Canadian bishops apologized “unequivocally” for the “physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual” abuses carried out by members of the Church at 140 residential schools attended by 150,000 indigenous children separated from their families between 1831 and 1998.

The issue has come to the fore this year with the discovery of over a thousand unmarked graves at former residential schools across Canada, intensifying calls for the Pope to apologize for the atrocities carried out at the church-run institutions — something he has refused to do.


Over the summer the Canadian government called on Pope Francis to issue a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role after the remains of children were found at multiple closed residential schools. Pope Francis was already scheduled to gather with indigenous survivors from Canada at the Vatican in December. He is set to meet separately with delegations from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities before holding a larger audience with all three.


Canada marked its inaugural “National Day For Truth And Reconciliation” last month commemorating the survivors of residential schools. The treatment of children there was deemed “cultural genocide” by a government commission, with abuses including starvation and hard labor in unsanitary, dangerous conditions.

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