Pope Francis will meet survivors from Canadian church-run boarding schools at the Vatican this spring
TORONTO (AP) — A meeting at the Vatican between Pope Francis and Indigenous people who were abused at church-run boarding schools in Canada has been rescheduled for late March and early April after being postponed due to the pandemic.
The change was announced in a joint statement Tuesday by the Canadian Catholic Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. The meeting was originally planned for last December.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools as an effort to assimilate them into Canadian society.
Canada's government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant in the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages.
The Vatican recently announced that the pope would visit Canada this year. A date has not been announced.
Pressure for a papal apology increased when the remains of over 200 children were found buried in unmarked graves in Kamloops, British Columbia, last May at what had been Canada's largest indigenous residential school. There are also unidentified remains in unmarked graves at other residential schools across Canada.
First Nations representatives and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have urged Pope Francis to publicly apologize in Canada. The Vatican recently announced that the pope would visit Canada this year. A date has not been announced.
Nearly three-quarters of the 130 residential schools were run by Catholic missionary congregations.
The residential school system was meant to isolate young Indigenous Canadians from the influence of their homes and culture, which the government at the time considered inferior to mainstream Canadian society.