ITK president, 6 Inuit representatives to speak with Pope in late March
Group is part of an Indigenous delegation whose visit to the Vatican was delayed by Omicron
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed and six other Inuit representatives will have a personal meeting with Pope Francis in late March, Obed said in a statement to Nunatsiaq News.
The meeting is a part of the Indigenous delegation to the Vatican that also includes representatives from the Assembly of First Nations and the Métis National Council. The delegation will be asking the Pope for an apology over the Catholic Church’s role in the Canadian residential schools system.
The trip will be held in the week of March 28.
Initially, the delegation was scheduled to meet the Pope in December 2021, but travel concerns over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 forced a postponement.
“Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is encouraged by the confirmation of new dates for the Inuit, Métis and First Nations delegation to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis,” Obed said in a statement.
During the week, the Pope will meet with individual delegations and then with all the Indigenous delegations together on April 1.
“This visit, and a direct personal encounter between Pope Francis and Inuit delegates, is a necessary part of our shared healing,” Obed said, who will be leading the Inuit delegation.
He added that he hopes there are no further COVID-19 delays.
On top of an apology, the Indigenous delegation will also be asking the Pope to release any records on residential schools and Indigenous artifacts held by the church.
Approximately 60 per cent of the residentials schools in Canada were run by the Catholic Church.
Over 1,200 unmarked graves have been found at former residential schools since the beginning of the 2021 summer. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission report estimated there are over 3,200 unmarked graves, but Murray Sinclair, the commission’s chairperson, said that number is likely much higher.
The delegation will be in my thoughts and prayers and I hope the Pope, as the leader of the Catholic Church will come to the meeting with open heart and not an iota of calculation. As a cradle Catholic, I, like other Canadian Catholics, bear responsibility for working daily for truth and reconciliation and earning the forgiveness of Inuit. I hope our prayers are heard.