Indigenous representatives hold first talks with Pope Francis in Rome | Indigenous rights news

Warning: The story below contains details of the residential school that may be offensive. Canadian Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Lines are available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419

Rome, Italy – Members of the indigenous delegation from Canada held their first meeting with Pope Francis in the Italian capital. While discussing the history of the Roman Catholic Church in A “residential school” is ongoing.

Mitch Case, interim councilor for the Metis Nation of Ontario, presented the popes with colorful beaded Metis-style suede suede shoes to the pope during a private meeting on Monday. He said the gift was a symbol of the Church and the Metis walking together.

“These crimes against humanity are committed against our people. [The moccasins are] Our approach to going back through the pain and before it,” Case said during a news conference.

“The church has a long way to go before we can forgive them for what they have done, but if they [Pope Francis] willing to walk with us then we will be willing to walk with him.”

The case was among more than 30 First Nation, Inuit and Metis representatives who were in Rome to meet with Pope Francis personally this week. The delegation consisted of Canadian housing school survivors and indigenous leaders, who supported an apology from the head of the Catholic Church for their role in administering the facility for decades.

Cassidy Caron (left), Chairman of the Metis National Council and Mitch Case of the Metis Nation of Ontario met Pope Francis on Monday. [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

The Catholic Church maintains more than 60 percent of public residential schools in Canada. It was in operation from the late 1800s until 1996. The aim of the school was to force indigenous children to integrate into mainstream European culture.

Approximately 150,000 Indigenous children are taken from their parents and communities. and forced to attend a school where verbal, physical, sexual, spiritual and emotional abuse is rampant and culturally prohibited.

The unmarked graves of thousands of children who have died in residential schools have been discovered since mid-2021, and a nationwide search for more graves is ongoing.

“What happened was wrong, they [the Catholic Church] It needs to be held accountable,” said Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine, a residential school survivor who traveled from the Northwest Territories in Canada to Rome. “The Church in Canada, they apologize. The only church that never apologizes is the Roman Catholic Church.”

Federal Investigation Committee Truth and Reconciliation Committee In its final report (PDF) in 2015, the Pope called on the Pope to apologize to survivors of schools, homes, families and communities “for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in spiritual, cultural, emotional and physical abuse. and sexuality” of Indigenous children attending Catholic-run institutions. But there was no such apology.

“This is for our family,” Antoine told Al Jazeera about the purpose of the delegation’s visit. “We will share the dark side of this story … We are not here to create fear or to panic – we are primarily here to tell the truth.”

Map of Former Residential Schools in Canada

meeting series

A meeting of the First Nation delegation with the Pope took place on Thursday. which is the same day the private meeting ended. There will be a final public meeting with the Pope and all delegations on Friday at the Vatican.

First Nations spiritual leaders travel with a delegation to help ease the burden of the event’s emotional schedule.

bishop william McGretten of the Council of Catholic Bishops of Canada also attended the meeting with the Pope. He has been involved in the planning process for several months now. But said the discovery of the grave played a role in expediting the expedition.

“I think that [the unmarked graves] It brings with it suffering that existed in the past,” McGratten told Al Jazeera.

“And we know that Pope Francis was impressed with that. It’s important to realize that he is deeply compassionate and that he wants to be able to reconcile. He expressed his desire to come and visit so he made great efforts to join those communities and I know that his heart was truly with them and he wanted to express his sorrows, concerns.”

Deer suede shoes
Made by Mitch Case, the buckskin moccasins symbolize the Amethyst’s willingness to forgive if there is a meaningful action from the church. [Amber Bracken/Al Jazeera]

Cassidy Caron, Chair of the National Council of Metis Described a one-hour meeting of the Amethyst delegation with the Pope on Monday as “very comfortable” and told reporters that Pope Francis had reiterated “truth, justice and healing” during the visit. negotiate

“I take that as a personal obligation. So he made his commitment to those three actions personally,” Caron said during a news conference. “I am saddened by his reaction … We share a lot with him,” she said, adding that the group requested “independent” access to Church records in residential schools. more on this matter.”

In a statement on Monday The Vatican says that Pope Francis has “The desire to listen and make room for the painful stories of the survivors.”

‘Say sorry’

Dr. Wilton Littlechild, another residential school survivor and First Nations leader, has been to Rome several times. and encouraged the head of the Catholic Church to apologize for decades.

This time, he said he hopes it will eventually happen. Littlechild will have three minutes to speak with Pope Francis when the First Nations delegation holds a private meeting with him on Thursday.

Apologies are at the top of the list, Littlechild said.

“’Your plea is Come to Canada and say sorry. Three words my people want to hear – I’m sorry,’” he told Al Jazeera about what he planned to say to Pope Francis.

and Trigger [for healing] It would be an apology if he answered ‘yes’ while we were here and expected us to bring our apology home. It just doesn’t work… All of this is important to individuality. self-esteem, because many of our children are still lost.”

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