Métis, Inuit delegations call on Pope to commit to reconciliation

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

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/03/2022 (186 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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.

JOHN LONGHURST / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Brianna Lizotte of Edmonton and Alex Kusturok of Cold Lake, Alberta lead the Metis delegation out of the Vatican.

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.”

The meeting with the Pope was “long overdue… But it is never too late to do the right thing,” she said.

“We’ve done our work. Now it is time for him (the Pope) to join us in that work.”

“We’ve done our work. Now it is time for him (the Pope) to join us in that work.” – Cassidy Caron, Métis National Council

Caron said Catholics in Canada and around the world can join them on the pathway to reconciliation and healing, and in so doing enable the Roman Catholic Church to “begin its own healing.”

The meeting with the Pope was “very comfortable,” she said, adding he expressed sorrow as he heard “the survivors tell their truth.”

While the Pope has committed to an upcoming visit to Canada, there are no firm dates yet. However, Caron said, “I expect it will be soon.”

The Métis delegation also asked the Pope to ensure unfettered access to records held by the church about residential schools; the church not shield any potential perpetrators “who committed crimes against our children;” it provide compensation for survivors and funding for community healing initiatives.

“We want an apology, but we also want action,” Caron said.

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

An estimated 150,000 children attended residential schools; as of late 2021, the Winnipeg-based National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation had documented more than 4,100 deaths of children at such facilities.

Some 60 per cent of residential schools were run by the Catholic Church.

At an afternoon news conference Monday, Caron said she reminded the Pope “the atrocities happened to children. That is never OK.”

Reconciliation is a long journey, she said, adding the church needs to commit itself to healing and reconciliation with Indigenous people from the Pope to the bishops to the churches to individual Catholics.

“All have a role to play,” Caron said.

GREGORIO BORGIA / ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO A pair of traditional Metis pointed-toe style moccasin were presented as a gift to Pope Francis in Rome.

On Monday, one hour after the Métis meeting, the delegation from advocacy group Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami met with the Pope.

National leader Natan Obed called for specific actions by Pope Francis to advance reconciliation with Inuit in Canada.

This included: ensuring the Canadian Roman Catholic Church fulfills its obligation to raise $30 million for the national healing fund; it helps Indigenous people in the search for more unmarked graves at former residential school sites; and the Pope intervene personally in the case of Oblate priest Johannes Rivoire, who is accused of sexually abusing children in Nunavut.

The Pope, Obed said, could also ask the French government to extradite Rivoire, who continues to live free in the European country, or ask that government to put him on trial in France.

“We want reconciliation to be based on action,” Obed said of Rivoire, who worked in Canada from the 1960s to 1993.

“We want reconciliation to be based on action.” – Natan Obed, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

The delegation, which represented 65,000 Inuit in 51 communities in Canada, gave the Pope gifts of a sealskin stole, a Rosary case made of sealskin, and carvings.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami members said the Pope was warm and welcoming and fully engaged during the session.

The meeting included the recitation of the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer) in Inuktitut, which Obed described as “a very powerful moment.”

John Longhurst is in Rome this week to cover the papal visit by Indigenous people for the Free Press. 

fpcity@freepress.mb.ca

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GREGORIO BORGIA / ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO Mitchell Case, Community-based historian and educator, and Region 4 Councillor, Metis Nation of Ontario, right, and the President of the Metis community, Cassidy Caron, showing a pair of traditional Metis pointed-toe style moccasin as a gift to Pope Francis in Rome.
GREGORIO BORGIA / ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO The President of the Metis community, Cassidy Caron, left, leaving the hotel with a Metis National Council delegation to meet with Pope Francis in Rome.
John Longhurst

John Longhurst
Faith reporter

John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.

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