Papal visit 2022

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/03/2022 (317 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Special human moment made everyone smile

Linda Daniels, a residential school survivor from Long Plains First Nation, is overcome with emotion as she is greeted at the Winnipeg airport by drummers and family after returning from her week-long trip to Rome as part of the First Nations delegation to meet with Pope Francis. (John Longhurst / Winnipeg Free Press)

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My time in Rome last week was filled with many more stories than I could write, an ocean of information and emotion from having a front row seat to history in the making as Métis, First Nations and Inuit delegates shared their stories with Pope Francis — and received a personal apology in return.

It was a profoundly religious experience. Each day began at 6:30 a.m. with a mass conducted by one of the five bishops on the trip and was followed by a traditional Indigenous sunrise ceremony.

Each meeting with the Pope began with prayer, often conducted in the language of the Indigenous person doing the praying. Press briefings were infused with references to the divine, God or Creator. Sometimes they included songs, prayers and sacred ceremonies.

Delegates recognized there was something beyond humankind at work during the week. As Regional Chief Gerald Antoine put it: “There are powers greater than us out there, working their ways to line things up the ways they need to be.”

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Day of symbolic connection, not reconciliation

The final audience stands with Pope Francis and members of the Indigenous delegation where the Pontiff delivered an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system, at the Vatican, Friday, April 1, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Vatican Media *MANDATORY CREDIT*

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At the end of a remarkable week at the Vatican in Rome — where delegations of Métis, Inuit and First Nations leaders met with the Pope to discuss the abuses perpetrated by the Catholic Church and ask for an apology in Canada — the Holy Father offered each group a bronze olive branch as a gift representing “peace” and “reconciliation.”

It wasn’t the first time a Pope has offered a gift to a group upset at the church — an olive branch is pretty standard — but in the context of the day’s events, it’s worth some analysis.

In the Bible, the symbol first appears in Genesis 8:11. After the world is flooded, Noah sends out birds from his ark to see if the waters are receding. A dove returns with a “freshly plucked olive leaf,” showing him the world is in the process of renewal.

In other words, the Pope’s offering of an olive branch is a symbol, proposing the floodwaters of trauma, pain, and violence caused by the church against Indigenous nations are beginning to recede, giving way to a new path.

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Pieces of Brandon residential school to be left in Rome

Jade Harper holds a brick from the former Brandon residential school attended by her grandmother and other relatives while in Rome this week. Jade Harper, a member of Peguis First Nation, came to Rome to help make a documentary about the First Nations delegation to see the Pope, she knew what she needed to bring. (Fred Cattroll)

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ROME — When Jade Harper of Peguis First Nation came to Rome to help make a documentary about the First Nations delegation meeting the Pope this week, she knew what she needed to bring: a brick.

Not just any brick. One from the former Brandon residential school attended by her grandmother and other relatives.

The documentary filmmaker visited the site of the old school in 2015. While there, she felt compelled to take some small pieces of the structure with her.

“I didn’t know why back then,” Harper said, adding she’s held on to the items for seven years.

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Papal apology for Catholic Church's role in residential schools

Former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Phil Fontaine, and residential school survivor Linda Daniels from the Long Plains First Nation (right), present Pope Francis with a stole that was made by Therese Dettanikkeaze from Northlands Denesuline Nation in Manitoba, at the Vatican, Friday, April 1, 2022. The final audience stands with Pope Francis and members of the Indigenous delegation where the Pontiff delivered an apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system, at the Vatican, Friday, April 1, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Vatican Media *MANDATORY CREDIT*

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ROME — “With all my heart, I am very sorry.”

Those eight, simple words spoken by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church Friday delivered a historic and powerful measure of recognition of the pain and suffering generations of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people have endured from being subjected to the cultural, physical and sexual brutalities of Canada’s church-run residential school system.

Pope Francis issued the apology at the end of a week-long series of meetings at the Vatican with 32 Indigenous delegates from Canada that had been contemplated for years and delayed twice because of the pandemic.

Planning took on greater urgency in the past year after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves — mostly of children — on or near the sites of residential schools across the country, beginning last spring in Kamloops, B.C.

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‘Very clear’ Pope was listening: Fontaine

Members of a delegations by the Assembly of First Nations meet the journalists outside St. Peter’s Square at the end of a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, Thursday. (Andrew Medichini / The Associated Press)

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ROME — When he came to Rome in 2009 to meet Pope Benedict XVI, former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine asked for an apology to Indigenous people. The Pope declined to do that.

“I’m back today for another shot at convincing Pope Francis to apologize,” Fontaine said with a smile.

Speaking in St. Peter’s Square after a two-hour meeting between First Nations people and the Pope — an hour longer than planned — Fontaine described the meeting as “a profound moment.”

The delegation gave the Pope “a plateful of critical issues for our people” to think about, he said, including healing for residential school survivors, dealing with the Doctrine of Discovery, following up on the actions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, reparations and the return of land.

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Vatican Museum’s Indigenous ‘gifts’ belong in Canada, delegates say

Most of the objects were collected by Pope Pius XI for a world mission exhibition in 1925. (Archdiocese of Edmonton)

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ROME — As delegates from First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities travelled by bus from Rome’s airport to their hotel Sunday morning, a tour guide proudly pointed out various landmarks.

They included an ancient Egyptian obelisk in a square along the way — one of eight in Italy’s capital city taken from that country by the ancient Romans.

Nearing the hotel, the guide exclaimed about Santa Maria Maggiore, considered one of the “jewels” of the Catholic churches in Rome. The ceiling, she said, was gilded with some of the first gold from the Americas, given to Pope Alexander VI by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.

Listening to her, I wondered: how are the Indigenous people on the bus hearing this? In my mind I could hear them saying, “Oh, yeah, just more stuff stolen from us.”

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Papal apology mandatory for reconciliation, B.C. chief says

KELLY GERALDINE MALONE / THE CANADIAN PRESS Chief Rosanne Casimir said moving forward will require acts of contrition so “wrongs can be made right for our people.”

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ROME — It’s nearly 9,000 kilometres from the Vatican to Kamloops, B.C., but for Rosanne Casimir, Kúkpi7 (chief) of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc in that interior B.C. community, the two are strongly linked.

“Many believe we wouldn’t be here (in Rome) without the discovery of the graves,” she said of the First Nations, Inuit and Métis meeting with Pope Francis.

For Casimir, as it was for many others on the trip, last year’s discovery of unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school represented a turning point in Indigenous relations with the Roman Catholic Church.

It helped create the conditions for the historic meeting with the Pope, she said, adding she came to Rome with a “deliberate message from my people to have the Pope acknowledge the harm” done by the residential schools.

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Métis fiddler honoured to support delegation

John Longhurst / Winnipeg Free Press Fiddler Alex Kusturok led the Métis delegation out of the Vatican earlier this week. Kusturok teaches fiddle, jigging, dancing and playing the spoons in Métis settlements and First Nations communities in Alberta.

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ROME — When fiddler Alex Kusturok led the Métis delegation out of the Vatican Monday, his one-month-old son was on his mind.

“I was thinking how great it will be one day that he can read his father was here at this time, honouring the delegates and elders with my music,” he said.

Kusturok, 30, lives in Cold Lake, Alta. His family moved around, from Vancouver to Ottawa to Swan Lake, but he started life in Winnipeg.

“I’m building roots in Cold Lake, but Winnipeg is home,” he said. “I still love the taste of Sals.”

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Winnipeg good place for Pope’s apology: Fontaine

Pope Francis delivers a blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter’s Square during the Angelus noon prayer at the Vatican, Sunday, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

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ROME — Phil Fontaine believes Pope Francis intends to issue an apology to Indigenous people on Canadian soil.

And if the former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations gets a chance when he meets the Pope Friday at the Vatican, he intends to invite the head of the Roman Catholic Church to do it in Winnipeg.

“St. Boniface played a historic role in the spread of Christianity westward across Canada,” said Fontaine, the Manitoba representative on the 32-member Indigenous delegation.

Fontaine said Manitoba is a good place to start a papal visit, because the church had such a significant presence in the province, adding St. Boniface was the site of an industrial school for Indigenous children.

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Métis, Inuit delegations call on Pope to commit to reconciliation

JOHN LONGHURST / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Cassidy Caron, president of the National Metis Council, speaks at the media scrum after meeting with the Pope.

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ROME — It might have been the first time the Red River Jig was played in St. Peter’s Square.

Even if it wasn’t, it lent a festive air as two fiddlers led members of the Métis delegation into the Vatican City gathering space after their Monday meeting with Pope Francis.

At a media scrum in the square, Métis National Council president Cassidy Caron said it was a first step in advancing the cause of truth, justice, reconciliation and healing for survivors of residential schools and their families.

Three Métis survivors shared their stories with the Pope at the meeting. Unfortunately, said Caron, “there are many who have already left us without their truths being heard, their pain acknowledged, without the healing they so rightly deserved.”

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Métis delegates first to meet with Pope

Métis National Council president Cassidy Caron wears her new beaded jacket with Mitchell Case, showing the red moccasins for the Pope. (John Longhurst / Winnipeg Free Press)

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ROME — Mitchell Case gave Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, two traditional handmade gifts before delegates from the organization met with Pope Francis on Monday.

One was a traditional beaded jacket for Caron to wear in the meeting. The other was a handmade gift of red moccasins for the Pope.

Case is a community-based historian and educator and region 4 councillor for the Métis Nation of Ontario. In making the presentation, he said the red shoes — the kind traditionally worn by popes, but not by Pope Francis — symbolize the “long way” the Roman Catholic Church has to walk before reconciliation and forgiveness can take place.

It will also remind the Pope “he doesn’t walk alone” when it comes to reconciliation, as well as reminding him of the “great and terrible things” done by popes who came before him.

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Indigenous tell pope of abuses at Canada residential schools

FILE - Native Canadian Phil Fontaine, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, attends Pope Benedict XVI general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Wednesday April 29, 2009. A group of native Canadians attended the pontiff's general audience on Wednesday before a private meeting where the pope expressed his concern for the acknowledged abuse and "deplorable conduct" of some church members at Canadian schools that native Canadians were forced to attend, in an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society. (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito, File)

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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Indigenous leaders from Canada and survivors of the country’s notorious residential schools met with Pope Francis on Monday and told him of the abuses they suffered at the hands of Catholic priests and school workers. They came hoping to secure a papal apology and a commitment by the church to repair the harm done.

“While the time for acknowledgement, apology and atonement is long overdue, it is never too late to do the right thing,” Cassidy Caron, president of the Metis National Council, told reporters in St. Peter’s Square after the audience.

This week’s meetings, postponed from December because of the pandemic, are part of the Canadian church and government’s efforts to respond to Indigenous demands for justice, reconciliation and reparations — long-standing demands that gained traction last year after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves outside some of the schools.

More than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture, and Christianize and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.

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Sunrise ceremony before papal visit

Elder Fred Kelly leads the sunrise ceremony before the first visit to the Pope in Rome. (John Longhurst / Winnipeg Free Press)

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ROME — Delegates and supporters from the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami gathered on the roof of their hotel Monday morning for a sunrise ceremony before the first meetings with Pope Francis in Rome.

The ceremony was led by Fred Kelly, a citizen of the Ojibways of Onigaming of the Anishinaabe Nation in Treaty 3 and an elder in Midewin, the sacred law and medicine society of the Anishinaabe.

Treaty 3 includes land from just west of Thunder Bay to just east of Winnipeg.

The ceremony, with a backdrop of the nearby famous Roman Catholic Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, included the burning of sweetgrass, a pipe, strawberries, water and drumming and singing.

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Doctrine of Discovery on agenda at meeting between Pope, First Nations

Pope Francis delivers a blessing from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square during the Angelus noon prayer at the Vatican, Sunday, March 27, 2022. (Gregorio Borgia / The Associated Press)

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ROME — When delegates from the Assembly of First Nations meet Thursday with Pope Francis, they intend to ask him not just for an apology but to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery issued in 1493.

The papal bull, or edict, which was pronounced by Pope Alexander VI, gave European explorers the right to claim lands not inhabited by Christians for their Christian monarchs. If people living there weren’t Christians, the land was considered terra nullius — empty — and available for conquest.

This doctrine, the AFN says, “led to the genocide of Indigenous peoples in every region of the world.”

AFN regional chief Gerald Antoine, who is leading the delegation in Rome, said: “When European rulers arrived on our shores, their international laws were applied to our lands and denied our existence as human beings.”

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Indigenous delegations’ meetings with Pope expected to drive reconciliation

“The reality is we have broken relationships with Indigenous people here in Canada,” said Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon. (Sasha Sefter / Winnipeg Free Press files)

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A journey that started four years ago — interrupted twice by the COVID-19 pandemic — takes an important step next week when delegations from the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami meet Pope Francis in Rome.

The meetings, which will take place at the Vatican, run March 28 to April 1.

Each delegation will get an hour with the Pope, with a final combined audience with him at the end of the week.

While there, the delegations intend to ask for the Pope to come to Canada to apologize to Indigenous people on the church’s behalf and, especially, to survivors of Roman Catholic-operated residential schools.

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Residential schools apology to be sought in Rome

Tk'emlups te Secwepemc Kukpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir speaks during a news conference ahead of a ceremony to honour residential school survivors and mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, in Kamloops, B.C., on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. Leaders of the First Nation say it would be "deeply meaningful" to welcome Pope Francis to their territory during an expected visit to Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

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For Assembly of First Nations Northwest Territories regional chief Gerald Antoine, this week’s trip to Rome to meet with Pope Francis “has been a long time in coming.”

“We asked for it for many years,” Antoine said at a Thursday news conference, adding the gathering will provide “dignity and respect” for residential school survivors and their families.

Delegates from the AFN will be in Rome Sunday through April 1; their meeting with the Pope is March 31.

Delegates from the Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami meet with the Pope on Monday.

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Oblates to open Rome residential school archives

An exterior view of the residential school of the Obaltes Sisters in Fort Alexandre is shown in this handout image provided by the archives of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface.THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Archives of the Société historique de Saint-Boniface

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WINNIPEG - A Catholic religious order that operated some residential schools in Canada says it will open its archives in Rome to researchers.

The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate has agreed to grant the Winnipeg-based National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation full access to records in the Italian city.

“We want to make sure that the families, the survivors, the families of the children who didn’t come home have access to their history,” said Rev. Ken Thorson of the OMI Lacombe Canada based in Ottawa.

The centre’s head archivist, Raymond Frogner, is expected to make an initial visit to the archives this spring.

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Reconciliation needed with Catholic Church

A view of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. (Andrew Medichini / The Associated Press files)

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One week from today, on March 28, a 13-person delegation from the Assembly of First Nations will arrive at the Vatican in Rome to meet with the Pope.

The meeting, according to an AFN press release this past week, is “part of broad efforts to seek justice for genocide in Catholic-run residential institutions, including to seek an apology to be delivered in Canada.”

Representing Manitoba will be former AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine, who travelled to the Vatican 13 years ago for the same purpose.

In 2009, then-pope Benedict met in private with then-national chief Fontaine and a small delegation to express his “sorrow” over the “deplorable” treatment Indigenous children suffered in residential schools run by the Roman Catholic church.

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History

Updated on Monday, March 28, 2022 12:54 PM CDT: Updates images, summary.

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