News of possible visit by Pope Francis bringing range of emotions for residential school survivors

‘It’s really clear that they’re saying don’t waste your time unless you’re coming with actionable items and not just empty promises.’


On Wednesday news broke Pope Francis was showing a “willingness” to discuss a trip to Canada for “pilgrimage and reconciliation” according to the Conference of Canadian Bishops.

The news sent a wave of emotion across the country.

For years, people have demanded that the Pope come to Canada to apologize for the role the Catholic Church played in the residential school system.

Even the Truth and Reconciliation Commission made the Pope’s visit one of its 94 calls to action.

Angela White, head of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, says the news of a possible Papal visit has created high hopes and some doubt.

“In some sense, it is really about, people are really glad he’s making the effort and it’s the first step,” she says of the possible visit. “And on the other side of it, it’s really clear that they’re saying don’t waste your time unless you’re coming with actionable items and not just empty promises.”

That’s exactly the sentiment of Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc Nation leaders in British Columbia who say it would be “deeply meaningful” to welcome Pope Francis to their territory during a visit to Canada.

A statement from the nation at Kamloops, B.C., says the visit would have to be more than a symbol of reconciliation and be accompanied by “real action.”

The statement urges the Catholic Church to provide an apology from the Pope for its role in the abuse of Indigenous children forced to attend Canada’s residential schools.

Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc leaders also urge the church to “demonstrate acts of contrition” and fulfill promises to disclose residential school documents and raise funds for survivors and their families

For Charlie Morrison, who is a residential school survivor, the Pope’s visit – and apology – would close many wounds.

“It means a lot to us because like I said there’s over 5,000 people missing and, the family of the missing people need some kind of closure or apology from somebody but I don’t know if he’s going to give an apology, are they going to get an apology but they’ve waited this long,” he says.

“And I think it will help with their healing too-so some people hey”