Hundreds of boarding schools supported by the U.S. government for 150 years sought to forcefully assimilate Native American and Indigenous children into white society, a first-of-its-kind report from the Interior Department said.
Expressing “sorrow and shame” for the complicity of Catholics in abusing Indigenous children in Canada and helping in the attempt to erase their culture, Pope Francis pledged to address the issue more fully when he visits Canada.
In three separate meetings March 28 and March 31, Pope Francis will listen to the experiences of representatives of Canada’s Indigenous communities, experiences that include being sent as children to residential schools operated by Catholic dioceses and religious orders.
Members of the Métis National Council gave Pope Francis a set of beaded moccasins and asked him to walk with them on the path of truth, justice and healing of Canada’s Indigenous communities and their relationship with the Catholic Church, said Cassidy Caron, president of the council.
Beginning March 28, residential school survivors, Indigenous elders and youth will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican as a prelude to a papal trip to Canada. The Indigenous want an apology, on Canadian soil, for historic abuses they suffered at government-owned residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church.
When protestors first clogged the streets of Ottawa, Canada with heavy trucks about three weeks ago, Msgr. Kevin Beach had to cancel a funeral — because the hearse couldn’t get in front of St. Peter Basilica.
After Pope Francis voiced his intention earlier this year to travel to Canada as part of the nation’s reconciliation process with indigenous communities, one of the country’s top prelates has said the papal visit could come as early as next year.
Pope Francis is willing to travel to Canada as part of “the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” the Vatican press office said.
Reconciliation between Canadian society and the country’s Indigenous communities is possible, say two new national Indigenous leaders.
In response to a late June announcement, the United States will be conducting an investigation of former federally funded boarding schools to search for graves of Native American children, a spokesperson for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said June 28 the bishops will “look for ways to be of assistance.”