Saskatoon

Reconciliation a top priority for Pope Francis, says ambassador

Pope Francis will make every effort to get to Saskatchewan to issue a long-awaited residential schools apology, says the Vatican's ambassador to Canada.

Pope will make every effort to come to Sask. in 2018 or 2019

The Vatican's ambassador to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, says Pope Francis (pictured here) will try hard to visit Saskatchewan. (Giuseppe Ciccia/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty)

Reconciliation between the Catholic Church and Indigenous people is a top priority for Pope Francis, says the Vatican's ambassador to Canada.

If something wrong was done and something remains to be done, you do it.- Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi

That's why the Pope will make every effort to travel to Saskatchewan and deliver the long-awaited apology to residential school students, says Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the Vatican's ambassador or "Apostolic Nuncio" in Ottawa.

Regina Archbishop Don Bolen, Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Felix Thomas and others are working to bring the pope here in 2018 or 2019.

The focus of the papal visit would be the apology to residential school students, at Wanuskewin Heritage Park just north of Saskatoon.

"If something wrong was done and something remains to be done, you do it," Bonazzi said.

The local group has sent an invitation letter to Francis. Bonazzi, who has served in Eastern Europe, West Africa and the Caribbean, said he hopes to be the "bridge" connecting the groups.

TRC calls for Pope apology

Bonazzi has closely followed the work of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which issued nearly 100 calls to action. One of those included an apology from the Pope on Canadian soil.

The pope's predecessor, Benedict XVI, issued a statement of regret for residential school sexual abuse when a Canadian delegation visited the Vatican in 2009. 

Bolen said survivors are looking for something more broad. Thomas said an apology at Wanuskewin, an ancient gathering place for First Nations people, would be of immense help to survivors and their families.

Bonazzi said Francis and other Vatican officials understand these issues: "Pope Francis manifests his special attention to those in need to offer his presence and whatever he can in situations where there are open wounds or there is something to be healed."

Saskatchewan had more residential school students per capita than any other province. The Catholic Church ran many of the schools on behalf of the federal government.

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