The trip revolved around an apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the abuse that indigenous children had to endure at residential schools mainly run by the church.
Pope Francis has landed in Canada to begin a week-long trip that will revolve around his apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for abuse suffered by indigenous children at most church-run residential schools.
“This is a trip of penance. Let’s say that’s the spirit of it,” the Pope told reporters after his flight took off from Rome on Sunday.
The Pope’s plane landed in Edmonton on Sunday in the western province of Alberta, where he will visit a former residential school and meet indigenous people on Monday.
The Pope is also visiting Quebec City and Iqaluit, the capital of the Nunavut territory. He will depart on Friday.
Between 1881 and 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and sent to residential schools. Many children are starved, beaten and sexually abused in a system that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls. “Cultural Genocide”.
The Pope’s plane with Canadian and Vatican flags fluttered outside the cockpit window. After disembarking with the help of an elevator, the pope boarded a white Fiat 500X, which dropped him off in the hangar. He then continued in a wheelchair.
Governor-General Mary Simon, who represents Canada’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth, was the first to greet the pope. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau followed.
The Pope sat between two Canadian officials during a brief performance of four native drummers and singers in front of a number of Indigenous leaders, many of whom dressed in well-dressed hats, greeting him and exchanging gifts.
“I asked the pope to walk with us today,” Major George Arcand Jr of the First Six Nations Treaty Alliance said in an interview with Canada Broadcasting Corp. “It has been a very humbling experience to speak to your holiness.”
RoseAnne Archibald, the head of state of the First General Assembly of Nations, who also greeted the Pope, criticized the organization of the “unilateral” trip and the “archaic” nature of the church, which has no women. in leadership positions.
“We don’t feel it’s about survivors,” she told reporters at the airport. “It was more about the church promoting the idea of the church, raising money for the church.”
The Pope left after a brief ceremony in a wheelchair to speak privately for a few minutes with Trudeau and other officials before heading to St Joseph’s Seminary, where he is expected to rest before Monday’s events.
While Canada’s leaders have known about the high number of child deaths in residential schools since 1907, the matter has been pushed to the forefront with discovered unmarked suspicious graves at or near old residential school sites last year.
In response to pressure stemming from those discoveries, the pope apologized for the Catholic church’s role in schools earlier this year during a visit by indigenous delegates to the Vatican.
But survivors and Indigenous leaders said they wanted more than an apology on Canadian soil.
Many have called for financial compensation, the return of Indigenous artefacts, the release of academic records, support for the extradition of an accused abuser, and the repeal of a 15th-century doctrine. justified the expropriation of the Indigenous peoples in the form of a papal bull, or decree.