Vatican, Canadian bishops not working closely with AFN to plan Pope’s visit, regional leader says


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The Vatican and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) have taken a ‘misstep’ in planning the Pope’s visit by failing to work closely with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) on the details of the trip to come,” said the regional chief who is leading the APN delegation to Rome.

Gerald Antoine, the AFN regional chief for the Northwest Territories, said he raised the issue with Archbishop of Edmonton Richard Smith during a meeting last week.

“We called them on it,” said Antoine, who is also the Dene national chief.

“There is a real, big opportunity for us to do things the right way… We have to have everything on the table.”

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Head of APN delegation to Vatican challenges Church leaders

Assembly of First Nations of the Northwest Territories Regional Chief and Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine describes what it has been like to work with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church on planning for the Pope’s upcoming visit Francis in Canada. 0:25

Antoine told CBC News that church officials must respect and follow First Nations protocols.

“It’s our home and it’s our family and they have to work with the family,” Antoine said.

Pope should visit First Nations affected by unmarked graves: leader

Pope Francis is expected to visit Quebec, Edmonton and Iqaluit on a trip to Canada in late July, according to sources involved in the plans who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Anotine said he asked CCCB and Vatican officials for their demands to confirm details of the papal visit, but did not receive a clarification.

“We would like this visit to happen in the way that our former residential school students need it to happen,” Antoine said.

Edmonton Catholic Archbishop Richard Smith recently spoke to Gerald Antoine about the AFN’s concerns about how the papal visit to Canada is being planned. (Scott Neufeld/CBC)

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kúkpi7 First Nation (Chief) Rosanne Casimir said she had not yet heard from the CCCB or the Vatican after hand-delivering an invitation to Pope Francis at the private meeting of two hours of the APN with the pontiff on March 31 at the Vatican.

“I hope he visits a community in Canada that has been affected by unmarked graves,” Casimir said.

“It would be an absolute travesty if he didn’t.”

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir wants Pope Francis to visit a First Nation affected by the discovery of unmarked graves. (Olivia Stefanovitch/CBC)

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc launched a stocktake on reconciliation in Canada last May when it announced the discovery of what are believed to be unmarked children’s graves.

The alleged graves are located near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, which was run by the Catholic Church and was the largest residential school in Canada at one time with 500 students attending at its peak.

Several other First Nations followed with their own announcements; many used ground-penetrating radar in their searches.

“It would be extremely meaningful if he visited here in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc because of the number of communities that have been affected in British Columbia,” Casimir said.

“Wherever the Pope comes to Canada, we want to make sure we have the opportunity to bring as many of our survivors, intergenerational survivors, and our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren to be able to come visit this papal visit. “

Canadian Association of Bishops says it is committed to working with the AFN

In a statement to CBC News, CCCB said it is committed to working closely with Indigenous leaders and communities to ensure the upcoming papal visit is an “important step on the road to healing and of reconciliation”.

The CCCB said that when Pope Francis addressed the Canadian bishops at the Vatican, he encouraged them to work with Indigenous partners on a “renewed and fruitful path, where encounters and shared projects will be of great help. “.

“We remain committed to this process and look forward to continued work with the Assembly of First Nations and Indigenous partners at local and national levels,” the statement said.

The pope initially announced he would travel to Canada for a final Vatican meeting with First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates on April 1. During this meeting, he apologized for the deplorable conduct of some Church members in residential schools.

“I will be happy to take advantage of meeting you again when I visit your native lands, where your families live,” Pope Francis said.

A beaded leather liturgical vestment is presented to Pope Francis by Linda Daniels and former Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine. (Vatican Media/Reuters)

The pope concluded his address by saying “until we meet again in Canada, where I can better express my closeness to you”.

At that time, Antoine said he felt progress had been made.

“It’s something really deep,” Antoine said. “We are all looking forward to Pope Francis coming to visit us and our family.”

Pope Francis’ trip is a ‘completion of the apology’

Although the partial papal apology was historic, the pope has yet to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) 58 call to action.

This section of the TRC report asks the Pope to apologize to Canada to the survivors, their families and their communities for the Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations children. Nations, Inuit and Métis in Catholic communities. run boarding schools.

Antoine said the papal visit follows the delegation’s trip to the Vatican.

“It’s just a completion of the apology, also for justice and restitution,” Antoine said.

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Gérald Antoine on a papal visit: “Work with us”

Gerald Antoine, Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of the Northwest Territories and National Chief of the Dene, explains what the AFN would like to see from the upcoming papal visit. 0:48

Antoine also noted that the planning process for the Pope’s trip is different from the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1987. He said he was involved in organizing this 12-day tour of Canada.

“Pope [John Paul II] said, ‘Make your people work with mine’, and we did it and we did it,” Anotine said.

“However, this time… the pope’s people must work with our people to make it happen.”

Pope to visit ‘targeted group of communities’

Former AFN National Chief Phil Fontaine calls on church to put Winnipeg on Pope’s agenda as it has the largest Indigenous population of any urban center in Canada and is home to the first cathedral of Western Canada, Saint-Boniface.

“There are others hoping he goes to Kamloops or Ermineskin [Cree Nation]”Fontaine said. “Anyone can guess at this point.

A cross with a child’s dress hung on it is pictured along the road outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The CCCB said Pope Francis heard a series of requests to visit different sites across Canada when he met with delegates at the Vatican.

“Given the advanced age of the Holy Father and the size of Canada, we know the visit will take place in a targeted group of communities,” a CCCB spokesperson said.

“However, we are committed to ensuring that Indigenous representatives and survivors from across the country have the opportunity to participate and will ensure that programming responds directly to the recommendations and advice we receive.

CCCB said venues and lineup details have not been finalized or confirmed.

The Vatican will make the final decision, which should be published soon.


Support is available for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schools and those triggered by the latest reports.

A National Residential School Crisis Line has been established to provide support to residential school survivors and others affected. People can access emotional referral and crisis services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.