By Philip Pullella and Anna Mehler Paperny
VATICAN CITY/TORONTO (Reuters) -Pope Francis will visit Canada July 24-30, the Vatican said on Friday, a trip during which he is expected to personally apologise for the Catholic Church’s role in running residential schools where many indigenous children were abused.
A Vatican statement said the pope would visit the cities of Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit.
Grand Chief George Arcand Jr., whose Treaty 6 territory includes Edmonton, said in a statement he recognised the impact a visit would have on residential school survivors, their families and communities.
“It is my hope we are on a path to healing and that survivors’ truths are validated with this historic visit,” he said.
The stated aim of the schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996, was to assimilate indigenous children. Over that period about 150,000 children were taken from their homes and many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide.”
Christian denominations, predominantly the Catholic Church, ran the schools on behalf of the government.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said an in-person apology was “important – and necessary,” adding that the pope’s trip would not be possible “without the bravery and determination of the survivors, indigenous leaders, and youth who shared their stories.”
But RoseAnne Archibald, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said in a statement she was “deeply disappointed” by the pope’s itinerary, which does not include one First Nation territory where the suspected remains of indigenous children were found at a former residential school site last year.
She will not greet the pope when he comes, an emailed statement said.
Delegations of several indigenous nations visited the pope last month and accepted his apology then for the Church’s role in Canada’s residential schools.
The pope is using a wheelchair because of a flare-up of pain in his knee. He postponed a trip to Lebanon that had been scheduled for next month so he can receive treatment.
He is still scheduled to travel to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo in early July.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella in the Vatican City and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; Editing by Toby Chopra and Rosalba O’Brien)