B.C. First Nation where probable unmarked graves were found invites Pope to visit community
The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, where 215 suspected unmarked graves of children were discovered earlier this year, has invited the Pope to visit its community if he comes to Canada.
On Wednesday, the Vatican said in a statement that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops invited Pope Francis to travel to Canada in the "context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples."
The statement said the Pope indicated his willingness to do so at an undetermined date.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc responded to the statement Thursday and invited the Pope to the community.
"It would be deeply meaningful to welcome the Holy See, Pope Francis, to Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, as our heart wrenching news was the first of the wave of confirmations of unmarked graves with thousands more lives lost coming to light," said Chief Rosanne Casimir in a news release.
"It’d be a historic moment for Kamloops Residential Indian School Survivors and for our community who continues to navigate the impacts following the horrific confirmation of the missing children."
Following Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc's announcement about the probable unmarked graves, the Pope expressed sorrow over the "shocking discovery," but stopped short of issuing a direct apology for the church's role in the residential school system.
The nation is calling on the Pope to apologize "as one of the many stages of the healing journey." It also calls on the Roman Catholic Church to accept responsibility "for its direct role in the numerous and horrific abuses committed against Indigenous children."
"For the Pope to come to Canada without real action, with simply the objective of reconciliation, glosses over and ignores this hard truth," Casimir said. "Though some may wish for reconciliation, Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc is still saddled with the truth of identifying hundreds of child victims from the Kamloops Indian Residential School."
According to the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, there are over 30 First Nations communities whose children were forcibly sent to the Kamloops Residential Indian School from 1890 to 1978.