It was a fascinating and historical morning in the Vatican in many ways, not the least of which were two separate meetings with the Holy Father and the Métis and Inuit indigenous peoples of Canada, along with the bishops of their dioceses. A meeting with First Nations indigenous is scheduled for March 28 and then an audience with the Pope on April 1.

As the Canadian bishops conference has published in recent weeks and months, as a lead-in to this week’s encounters in Rome, “over the past year, a national conversation on the tragic history of residential schools in Canada has unfolded throughout our country.

“The Catholic Bishops of Canada are profoundly saddened by the residential school legacy and remain fully committed to working with Indigenous Peoples and communities across the country to support healing and reconciliation.  We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day.

“This encounter with the Holy Father will include Indigenous survivors, Elders, knowledge keepers and youth meeting with Pope Francis.”

Pope Francis and Métis (Vatican media)

“As Canadian Bishops, we are grateful to these delegates for walking with us on this journey and to Pope Francis for his attention to their suffering and his deeply-held commitment to social justice,” said CCCB President, the Most Rev. Raymond Poisson.

“We expect that these private encounters will allow the Holy Father to meaningfully address both the ongoing trauma and legacy of suffering faced by Indigenous Peoples to this day, as well as the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system, which contributed to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality.”

Pope Francis and Inuit (Vatican media)

A very brief Holy See Press Office bulletin and a summary of that bulletin on the English language website of Vatican News were helpful only to those who know the entire story behind today’s encounter.

Holy See Press Office bulletin (in Italian): This morning, in the course of two successive audiences, Pope Francis met with two groups of representatives of Canadian indigenous peoples, about 10 delegates from the Métis and about 8 from the Inuit, accompanied by some Bishops of the Bishops’ Conference of Canada. Each meeting lasted about an hour and was characterized by the Pope’s desire to listen and make room for the painful stories brought by the survivors. The meetings and listening will continue in the coming days according to the information already provided. Photo metis

In the event you have not been following this story since it first broke in 2020, the Vatican news Italian site offered the best historical overview:

(Translated) – The Pope Meets The Delegations Of Indigenous People From Canada: “He Listened To Our Pain”

It was during an Angelus on June 6, 2020 that the Pontiff shared his dismay with the world over the dramatic news, which had arrived a few weeks earlier, of the discovery in Canada of a mass grave in the Kamloops Indian Residential School with human remains of over 200 indigenous Canadians. A macabre discovery, a symbol of a past of residential cruelty in the country when, from 1880 to the last decades of the 20th century, in institutions financed by the government and managed mostly by Christian organizations, the aim was to educate and convert indigenous young people and to assimilate them. in traditional Canadian society, through systematic abuse.

The finding in June (which was followed by others) led the Canadian episcopate to issue an immediate “mea culpa” and to activate a series of projects to support indigenous communities, in a process of reconciliation whose apex is now represented by the availability of the Pope to receive the communities in the Vatican today and March 31. This is also in view of a future apostolic journey – announced but not confirmed – to Canada. On April 1, Francis will instead receive in audience in the Clementine Hall the various delegations and the Canadian Bishops’ Conference.

As the first group this morning, Francis received the members of the Métis National Council. An encounter punctuated by words, stories and memories, but also many gestures: of the Pope and of the indigenous people themselves who found themselves following a common path. That of “truth, justice, healing, reconciliation.”

Leaving the Apostolic Palace to the sound of two violins, a symbol of their culture and identity, the indigenous people met the international press outside St. Peter’s Square to reclount the details of the morning. Cassidy Caron, young president of Métis, spoke out – by reading a statement – for the “incalculable number of people who have left us without their truth ever being heard and their pain recognized. Without ever receiving the humanity and basic healing they deserved. The acknowledgment, the apologies, it’s very late, but it’s never too late to do the right thing,” she said.

Click here for video: Il Papa incontra le delegazioni di indigeni del Canada: “Ha ascoltato il nostro dolore” – Vatican News

A Canadian radio reporter, Charles Le Bourgeois tweeted today in French: During his meeting with the #Métis this morning, the #pope said 3 words in English to make himself understood “justice, truth, reconciliation”.

If you scroll down his Twitter page – Charles Le Bourgeois (@ChLeBourgeois) / Twitter – you can view the video statement by Cassidy Caron.