The Pope will visit Canada but the date has not been set

Pope Francis will work for reconciliation. The sovereign pontiff will visit Canada, on an undetermined date, at the invitation of the Canadian episcopate splashed by the scandal of the natives who have suffered abuse in residential schools in this country, the Vatican announced on Wednesday. “The Canadian Episcopal Conference has invited the Holy Father Francis to make an apostolic visit to Canada, also in the context of the pastoral process that has been going on for a long time, of reconciliation with the indigenous peoples,” a brief Vatican statement read.

Pope Francis “has shown his availability to visit the country at a date to be fixed later,” the statement concluded. A month ago, the Catholic Church of Canada issued a formal apology to Indigenous peoples after the discovery in recent months of more than a thousand graves near former residential schools, but activists in this country are still waiting for the Pope François un mea culpa considered crucial for the process of reconciliation.

“The Catholic Church must be held responsible”

In total, more than a thousand anonymous graves near former Catholic Indian residential schools were found this summer, shedding light on a dark page in Canadian history and the policy of forced assimilation of First Nations. The apologies of the sovereign pontiff “have long been overdue,” said Wednesday the national head of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), RoseAnne Archibald, who says she is ready to welcome Pope Francis during his visit to Canada. “The Catholic Church must be held responsible and recognize its role in the establishment and management of these institutions of assimilation and genocide,” she added.

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She asks the Church for remedial actions, for example the restitution of land properties in the diocese and investment in support programs for indigenous peoples. Between the late 19th century and the 1990s, some 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly conscripted into 139 such residential schools across the country, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture. Many of them have been subjected to ill-treatment or sexual abuse, and more than 4,000 have died there, according to a commission of inquiry which had concluded to a true “cultural genocide”.

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