Oct 27, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Pope Francis agrees to visit Canada amid Indigenous school scandal

Pope Francis looks on during an audience with members of Catholic charity Caritas in Paul VI hall at the Vatican.

Pope Francis. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis has agreed to visit Canada amid a growing scandal over the Catholic Church's role in the abuse of generations of the country's Indigenous children, the Vatican said Wednesday.

Why it matters: Canadian officials, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have long called on the church to apologize for its role in running residential schools where Indigenous children were subjected to physical and sexual abuse.

Driving the news: In a statement, the Vatican said that the pope would travel to the country "in the context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples." It added that a date for the visit has not been finalized.

  • The Canadian government, the Presbyterian Church, the Anglican Church and the United Church of Canada have all apologized for their role in running the residential schools. But the Catholic Church has so far declined to do so, per AP.

The big picture: More than 150,000 Indigenous children attended Canada's state-funded religious boarding schools from 1883 to 1996.

  • Thousands of those children died there of disease and other causes, AP reported. Many others never returned home to their families.
  • Nearly three-quarters of the schools were run by Catholic congregations, per AP.

Catch up quick: In May, an Indigenous Canadian group announced the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a residential school that was run by the Catholic Church in British Columbia. Some of the children were as young as 3.

  • In June, Pope Francis said that he was saddened by the news but did not apologize.
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