Pope Francis and Residential Schools

Samay Dadlani ’24


There has never been a papal visit more anticipated than Pope Francis’s upcoming trip to Cana-da. The Pope agreed to assist with ongoing reconciliation efforts for the Indigenous peoples following the discovery of thousands of children buried at former residential schools. The Vatican has declared that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) invited the Papal journey to Canada.

The trip could have the Pope apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church for the atrocities of residential schools—an act demanded by many Canadians.“The Catholic church must be ac-countable and acknowledge their responsibility for implementing and running these institutions of assimilation and genocide,” National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations said in an emailed statement to the Church on October 27.

Further, Saskatchewan’s First Nation Chief Cadmus Delorme claimed that a pontifical visit must come with an apology to validate the pain and suffering that many survivors still live with today. His Holiness agreed to meet in December with Indigenous survivors of Canada’s infamous residential schools. The CCCB stated that the Pope summoned the delegations to the Vatican and plans to meet with First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples from December 17 to 20, 2021.

The Pope will preside over a final audience with all three groups on December 20, 2021. On September 24, 2021, Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins stated, “The country’s bishops had apologized earlier this year as they sorrow-fully acknowledged the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples that continue to this day.” Earlier in 2021, investigators and archeologists in Canada, using ground-penetrating radar, reported finding 215 unmarked graves at the site of Kamloops Residential School in B.C.

Upon being alerted of this number, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked for the pope to make a formal apology on his visit. Now, over 6,509 graves at residential schools have been uncovered, and the call for an apology has grown stronger. Indigenous communities express hope that the Vicar of Christ’s visit to Canada will include a for-mal apology towards residential school survivors, as it would be a significant milestone in the long journey towards truth and reconciliation.

Photo Credit: Alessandra Tarantino/AP

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