Pope Francis has a planned trip to Canada to help ongoing efforts at reconciliation with indigenous peoples. The Catholic church has been guilty in the role they played in the abuse and deaths of thousands of native children.
Earlier this year, investigators in Canada using ground-penetrating radar have reported finding hundreds of unmarked graves at the sites of two residential schools for Indigenous children. The discoveries — more than 600 graves in one school, 215 bodies in another — revived calls, including from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, for the pope to make a formal apology.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian boarding schools in a campaign to assimilate them into Canadian society. Thousands of children died there of disease and other causes; others never returned to their families.
Nearly three-quarters of the 130 residential schools were run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations. Others were run by the Presbyterian, Anglican and the United Church of Canada, which today is the largest Protestant denomination in the country.
The Canadian government formally apologized for the policy and abuses in 2008. In addition, the Presbyterian, Anglican and United churches have apologized for their roles in the abuse.
Francis had already agreed to meet in December with Indigenous survivors of Canada’s notorious residential schools amid calls for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role. At that time, the bishops conference said the pontiff had invited the delegations to the Vatican and would meet separately with three groups — First Nations, Metis and Inuit — during their December 17-20 visit. The pope will then preside over a final audience with all three groups December 20.
Many are demanding an apology from the pope, so this visit could be the occasion for a papal apology.