Pope Francis begins a six-day visit this Sunday with the aim of “contributing to the path of healing and reconciliation that has already begun.
“Pope Francis begins this Sunday a six-day trip to Canada, a visit long claimed by indigenous communities. The main purpose is to repeat the apologies for the role which Catholic Church had in the old colleges for native children: “forced assimilation” centers that have left consequences disastrous for generations of these Canadian people.
The Pope asked for forgiveness for the behavior of some members of the Catholic Church
Pope Francis declared in Rome July 17, which would have been a “journey of penance” to “contribute to the path of healing and reconciliation already undertaken”. There the visit will be the fourth for a pope to Canada. John Paul II traveled to the North American country in 1984, 1987 and 2002. Francis will be present in the provinces of Alberta and Quebec, as well as in the Nunavut Territory. He will hold meetings with members of the clergy and political authorities (such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada).
He will also hold fairs inand the cities of Edmonton and Quebec. But his itinerary will mainly focus on meetings with indigenous leaders and alumni from private schools, as well as a visit to the former Ermineskin boarding school (in Maskwacis, Alberta) and Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, whose population is mainly of Inuit descent.
Ghislain Picard, leader of the assembly from the first nations of Quebec and Labrador, said Wednesday that it is up to the survivors of the high schools to judge whether the pope’s words are acceptable or not. “Apologies will only be very meaningful to the extent that they produce actions that support them,” he said. Between 1883 and 1996 there were about 150,000 native children lived in a network of 139 federally funded centers run by religious groups (mostly Catholic).
beating, sexual assault, abandonment, racism and cultural denial were common within its walls. Trudeau said a year ago that “the bigger mistake than this Country committed is forced assimilation of native minors through the boarding schools”. Some experts estimate that more than 6,000 children have died in these places. The discovery of over 1,400 anonymous graves – as of May 2021 – based on these ancient institutions confirmed the horror of the report published in 2015 by the Truth Commission e Reconciliation.
In 2007, after years of protests and legal battles, an agreement was signed between alumni, federal representatives and religious groups. Ottawa and the Protestant churches have apologized and has covered the compensation amounts, but not the Catholic authorities in Canada. Pressure mounted when unmarked graves were reported. Prime Minister Trudeau and opposition politicians they said the pope should take the step to promote reconciliation.
In this wave of indignation, a dozen churches were set on fire
In this wave of indignation, a dozen temples were consumed by fire, while others were vandalized. This was done by a delegation consisting of indigenous leaders and Canadian bishops went to Rome at the end of March. On April 1, Francis told the audience: “I feel ashamed and pained by the role played by some Catholics, especially those with educational responsibilitythey have had in all these things that have hurt you, the abuse you have suffered and the lack of respect for their identity, their culture and even their spiritual values.”
The Pope added: “For the deplorable behavior of these members from the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to tell them with all my heart that I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, by asking for forgiveness”. Indigenous representatives indicated that the Pope should also pronounce these words in Canada, as he had recommended The Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
On May 13, the Vatican announced official visit. The trip was not without accusations. Members of indigenous communities lament that Francisco does not go into the old Kamloops College (British Columbia), where the first anonymous graves were discovered in June 2021, and which have become a symbol of suffering and resistance. Alumni of these centers and their families criticize the limited forum at various events.
“The survivors had no choice as children and some now await approval from the same institutions that snatched them from their families, homes, cultures and children’s identities. It is completely ridiculous,” he protested in a statement Bobby Cameron, head of the Federation of Indigenous Sovereign Nations.
The organizing committee emphasized who, despite all the logistical challenges, pay special attention to the safety and comfort of the participants, as many of them are elderly. The promised money has also returned. Under the agreement signed in 2007, Catholic authorities in Canada pledged to raise $25 million from allocate to compensation and reconciliation programs.
However, the sum did not exceed four million. Last September, the Canadian Conference of Bishops announced a new effort: to achieve $30 million by January 2027. On Monday, the agency announced that it had collected so far $4.6 million. The Pope arrives in Canada amid clouds of pain for former boarding schools. Even the Catholic Church in the country he experiences complicated times because of the long list of scandals – especially sexual abuse – in orphanages, parishes and educational centres, as well as a significant decrease in the number of believers.
According to Statistics Canada, 39% of the population in 1985 she identified herself as Catholic; in 2018 it rose to 29%. An Angus Reid poll released in April found that 67% of The Canadian Catholics interviewed said rarely or never to attend religious functions.