Pope Francis has agreed to visit Canada to further the progress of reconciliation, according to a Wednesday statement from the Vatican.
The invitation came on behalf of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which said the date of the Pope’s trip had yet to be decided. The Vatican said the trip would be made “in the context of the longstanding pastoral process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”
“I’ll welcome [the Pope] when he arrives in Canada to issue a long-overdue apology to Survivors and descendants,” Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald wrote in a Wednesday Twitter post.
“For the Vatican visit, I’m sending a message that the Pope must renounce and formally revoke the 1493 Papal Bull, aka Doctrine of Discovery.
“I continue to ask that the Catholic Church be accountable for their role in the forced assimilation and genocide of our children, families, and Nations. Someone must be criminally charged. Further, that reparations be made to First Nations.”
A First Nations, Métis, and Inuit delegation will meet the Pope at the Vatican in December. Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya previously said he would be part of that delegation.
In light of the Pope’s impending visit, the Canadian Bishops said the delegation would now “have the opportunity to speak to Pope Francis about the timing, focus, and themes in preparation for his future pilgrimage to Canada.”
Yakeleya earlier said the delegation will ask the Pope to formally apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s decades-long role in running Canada’s residential schools, and ask him to deliver that apology on Canadian soil.
“We seek to hear these words on our lands, by the Pope,” Yakeleya said. “We seek justice. It is only then that we can begin walking truly on the healing path of reconciliation.”
Yakeleya stressed that the delegation does not know if the Pope will agree to apologize.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an apology of its own in September for the suffering endured by Indigenous people.
An apology from the Pope would fulfil a call to action issued by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Call to Action 58 requests that the Pope issue an apology to survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.
Now the trip to Canada has been confirmed by the Vatican, the question of where in the country the Pope will visit remains to be determined.
The Northwest Territories was visited by Pope John Paul II in 1987. Canada as a whole has not been visited since John Paul II last made a trip in 2002.
The location of a visit from Pope Francis is an important consideration, Yakeleya said.
“Each regional chief would want His Holiness to come to their area, their territory,” the Dene National Chief told reporters earlier this month.