From March 28 to April 1, 2022, a delegation of 32 Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth – as well as support staff – journeyed together from across the country to meet with Pope Francis, accompanied by a small group of Canadian Bishops. Metis, Inuit and First Nations delegations met with the Holy Father over three days.
The visit to Rome concluded in a final audience with Pope Francis on April 1st with all three Indigenous groups. At that time, the Holy Father made an historic apology for the Church’s role in the residential school system, and promised to come to Canada to apologize on Canadian soil:
Here’s a gallery by the Archdiocese’s Matthew Bodnarek, featuring coverage of the entire week:
Pope Francis apologizes to Indigenous Peoples, will come to Canada
Pope Francis said he is very sorry during the historic Final Audience between Pope Francis and all the Indigenous delegates:
I also feel shame … sorrow and shame for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, and the abuses you suffered and the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values.
For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.”
His Holiness said it is his hope to visit Canada “soon” and possibly “in the days” around the Feast of St. Anne, which is on July 26.
VIDEO: “The Pope is with You”
“The Pope is with You” – Archbishop Richard Smith speaks on what occurred within today’s papal encounter as the Assembly of First Nations delegates shared time together with Pope Francis at the Vatican today, March 31, 2022.
Chief Dr. Willie Littlechild – “I am overwhelmed emotionally”, reaction to Pope Francis’ apology:
Métis delegate and elder Angie Crerar’s final briefing message and prayer:
“Now we’re brothers, sisters.” Archbishop Smith recaps Indigenous visit to Rome:
Media Briefing after the final Papal Audience:
Father Susai from Edmonton’s local Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples (declared the National Catholic Parish for Indigenous Catholics) accompanied the delegations. He was able to personally present Pope Francis with the gift of an orange sash after the encounter:
VIDEO: Interview with First Nations papal delegate Chief Willie Littlechild
Chief Littlechild, of the Ermineskin First Nation, is a former Treaty Six Nations grand chief and former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Chief Littlechild has worked with the United Nations for more than 40 years advocating for indigenous peoples. He is a survivor of residential school.
Chief Willie Littlechild will be among the delegates traveling to Vatican City on March 28 to meet with His Holiness Pope Francis as part of national healing and reconciliation efforts.
Sacred fire and prayer wave in support of Indigenous Delegation to Rome
On March 28, 2022, as the encounter begins, in solidarity with the Indigenous Fire Keepers keeping the Sacred Fire in your region and across this land, we invite all of you to light a fire or a candle and to pray. It is suggested each Diocese/Eparchy partner with the Catholic Women’s League of Canada, Knights of Columbus, and/or other groups to ensure commitment to continuous prayer across each region’s prayer time zone(s).
- ATLANTIC: NS, PEI, NL and NB 5 am- 9 am
- EASTERN: QC, NU 8 am – 11 am, ON, NU 11 am – 1 pm
- CENTRAL: MB 12 noon -3 pm SK 3 pm – 6 pm
- MOUNTAIN: AB, NWT 5 pm – 8 pm YT, NWT 8 pm – 11 pm
- PACIFIC: BC 9 pm – 11 pm
We, the Catholic faithful, have an opportunity to be in spiritual solidarity with the delegation in Rome, by educating ourselves on the history of residential schools in Canada and by praying that the Holy Spirit may guide these grace-filled encounters.
VIDEO: Interview with Métis papal delegate Angie Crerar
VIDEO: What is Reconciliation? – Fr. Cristino Bouvette
We sat down with Fr. Cristino Bouvette of the Catholic Diocese of Calgary a couple months ago to talk about how we define reconciliation, and to learn from his uniquely knowledgeable perspective as a indigenous Roman Catholic priest.
VIDEO: Alberta delegate Gary Gagnon, representing the Metis Nation, speaks about the Indigenous Delegations to the Holy See
VIDEO: Chief Littlechild and Archbishop Smith’s Statement on Kamloops and Reconciliation
VIDEO: Bishop McGrattan speaks on responding to Indigenous issues as Catholics as a first step to reconciliation
VIDEO: Archbishop Smith talks about upcoming Indigenous Delegation to Rome
February 1, 2022 – The Canadian Catholic Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami are pleased to announce that the delegation to Rome to meet with Pope Francis, originally planned for December 2021, is now scheduled to take place at the end of March and early April of this year.
In light of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, both in Canada and throughout the world, a prudent decision was made in December to postpone the delegation out of concern for the safety of all delegates, recognizing the uncertainty regarding travel and the fluid nature of the situation.
Working closely with the Vatican, new dates have been confirmed. The Holy Father is now scheduled to meet with individual Indigenous delegations the week of March 28, 2022. A final audience with all participants will take place on Friday, April 1, 2022.
The health and safety of all delegates remain our first priority. In the weeks ahead, we will monitor conditions leading up to the revised travel dates and continue our dialogue with delegates, public health officials as well as the relevant government and international authorities, traveling only when we feel it is safe to do so.
We remain committed to walking toward healing and reconciliation and very much look forward to the opportunity for Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth to meet with Pope Francis.
For further information:
- Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Assembly of First Nations – email@example.com
- Métis National Council – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami – email@example.com
Download the Announcement:
- Canadian Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami Announce Rescheduled Dates for Rome Delegation (PDF)
While in Rome, the Pope will grant three distinct one-hour private audiences with the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit delegates respectively. These will be followed by a fourth encounter with the entire group, at which other Indigenous people from Canada will be present.
Three of the official delegates are from Alberta: Chief Wilton Littlechild of Maskwacis, Angie Crerar of Grande Prairie and Gary Gagnon of St. Albert.
As a member of the group of Bishops that has been collaborating in this endeavour with national Indigenous leadership, I shall accompany the delegation, as will Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary.
We are all keenly aware of the historical importance of this gathering with Pope Francis, and rely heavily upon your prayerful support.
Read Archbishop Smith’s Letter to the faithful: Special Delegation of Indigenous Peoples to Encounter Pope Francis in Rome (PDF, 2 pages)
News Story – 26 March 2022: Indigenous Delegation in Rome, will be livestreamed