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First Nations chief will hand deliver invitation to Pope Francis to visit Kamloops


When she sits down with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday as part of a delegation of First Nations leaders and residential school survivors, Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir will hand deliver an invitation for the pontiff to visit Kamloops, B.C.

"That is ground zero, that is where the news first shook the world," said Casimir from her hotel room in Rome. After the presence of 215 unmarked graves was confirmed at the site of the Kamloops Residential School last May, a light was shone once again on the horrific abuses perpetrated in those institutions. Demands for a papal apology for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the administration of these schools were renewed.

While Casimir says she is confident Pope Francis will visit Canada to make an in-person apology for the intergenerational harm caused by residential schools, she isn’t sure if his itinerary will include Kamloops. She hopes the personal invitation will sway him. 

"I’m not expecting an answer right there, but knowing he is coming to Canada, I want our people to be able to have that opportunity to bear witness as well, and see these first steps he is willing to make on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church," said Casimir. 

She calls the week of meetings between the pope and First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegations from across Canada important and historic.  

"This is definitely a first step, knowing that we are going to be having that time and that opportunity to share with him the grievances, the traumas, the pain, as well as the truth telling, and for him to really be able to listen to us," she said.

Thursday’s delegation has chosen to allocate 10 minutes of its time with the pope to Casimir, who says she is nervous about the meeting.

"I am carrying a lot of weight on my shoulders.  I’m carrying a lot of messages that have been shared with me to bring forth. And for me, I just have that responsibility and that honour to do that on behalf of my people," Casimir said.

"I take that with the hope there will be some meaningful steps that will be implemented moving forward."

In 2015, one of the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was for an apology from the pope. Top Stories

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