A Metis group from Manitoba flew to Rome Monday ahead of a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican later this week.
The Manitoba Metis Federation delegation will be the first on Thursday to meet the head of the Roman Catholic Church after he apologized to indigenous people for the deplorable behavior of church members involved in boarding schools.
The Pope issued an apology earlier this month at the Vatican after a week of meetings with Metis, Inuit and First Nations delegates.
The Manitoba Metis Federation had organized a separate meeting with Francis.
Delegates include boarding school survivors, elders and youth.
David Chartrand, the association’s president, says many Metis have deep ties to the church.
“Now that His Holiness has apologized to all indigenous peoples, we can focus our meeting on the relationship between the Red River Metis and the Catholic Church – past, present and future,” Chartrand said in a press release Monday.
Some bishops will accompany the Manitoba Metis delegates to the Vatican.
“It is the desire of all bishops in Canada to advance reconciliation and build strong relationships with Canada’s indigenous peoples,” Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg said in a press release.
An estimated 150,000 indigenous children were forced to attend boarding schools, more than 60 percent of which were run by the Catholic Church.
On April 1, the Pope stood in front of a hall filled with almost 200 indigenous delegates and asked God’s forgiveness for the actions of the Catholic Church.
“I want to say to you from the bottom of my heart: I am very sorry,” Francis said in Italian. “And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking forgiveness.”
Francis also said he might be coming to Canada this summer.
Chartrand said he will ask the pope to come to Manitoba to “understand why we need to renew our relationships, especially in our small and remote communities where the church is often a central component.”
A Catholic priest played a significant role in founding Metis leader Louis Riel from what would later become Manitoba. Rev. Noel-Joseph Ritchot led the delegation that Riel sent to Ottawa to negotiate the Provisional Government’s accession to the Confederacy.
Riel himself was Catholic, but he also wrote about his troubles with the Church.
The Manitoba Metis Federation organized the separate meeting with the Pope after the group withdrew from the Metis National Council in 2021 after years of internal conflict.
Metis National Council was part of the larger delegation earlier this month.
— Kelly Geraldine Malone THE CANADIAN PRESS
Metis Pope Francis