Satbir Singh Aulakh, Toronto ON, November 10, 2021.
Growing calls by the members of the indigenous community for an apology from the Pope began after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools. According to an estimate, around 150,000 indigenous children were forced to attend the residential schools over the course of a century and more than 60 percent of them were run by the Catholic church.
Between 25-30 members of the indigenous community will be marching to the Vatican city next month for a private meeting with Pope Francis. The theme of the meeting would be how indigenous people and the Catholic church can come together for healing and reconciliation. In this private meeting, representatives from the First Nations, Inuit and Metis groups will tell their personal stories about the legacy of the residential schools.
They will also be sharing their expectations from Pope’s next visit to Canada, which according to the Indigenous leaders, must come with an apology. Previous calls for an apology were unanswered by the former leader of the catholic church, Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 as he expressed his sorrow but never apologized. In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a personal conversation with the Pope and asked him to consider an apology.
According to Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian bishops, “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”.