AFN finalizing details on trip to Vatican

OTTAWA — The Assembly of First Nations says they are finalizing details of a meeting with Pope Francis in Vatican City as part of efforts to seek justice for genocide in Catholic-run Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

The delegation will also seek an official apology from the pope himself. The delegation will be made up of residential school survivors, two youth representatives and 13 First Nation delegates representing the AFN and will gather with Pope Francis on March 31.

To date the head of the Catholic faith has not issued an apology for their part in Canada’s cultural genocide against indigenous children. In 2021, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an apology in a statement.

“Many Catholic religious communities and dioceses participated in this system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, failing to respect the rich history, traditions and wisdom of Indigenous peoples,” said the statement. “We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual.”

That apology prompted AFN leadership to ask why the Pope was not invited to Canada to issue the apology. AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald said at the time that she would seek an apology from the Pope himself, made on Turtle Island.

The delegates arrive in Rome on March 27 and are invited to attend a Sunday mass celebration arranged for the group.

Metis and Inuit delegates will meet with the Pope separately to discuss issues pertaining to their nations. The delegates will gain access to the Vatican’s collection of Indigenous artifacts on March 29, and on March 31 the First Nations delegation will meet with Pope Francis. All three groups will collectively meet with the Pope on April 1 for a final discussion.

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