The meeting between Canada’s Indigenous peoples and Pope Francis at the Vatican has been rescheduled for March 28 to April 1, according to a statement Tuesday.  

The joint statement by Indigenous groups and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said they were seeking forgiveness and healing the rift between the church and Canada’s Indigenous peoples.

“We remain committed to walking toward healing and reconciliation and very much look forward to the opportunity for Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth to meet with Pope Francis,” it said.

The visit was slated for December but was canceled because of the emerging health threat of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Three indigenous groups — Assembly of First Nations, Metis and Inuit — still have the same goal: to get a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in running notorious Indian Residential Schools beginning in the 1820s through to the 1990s when the last of 139 schools was closed.

About 150,000 students were sent to the schools, at times taken from their families by force with the goal of eradicating Indigenous culture.

About 4,500 died and some students were subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

During the past year more than 1,800 unmarked graves have been identified at various residential school sites across Canada.

About 60% were run by the Catholic Church and the rest by other Christian churches.

Apologies have been made by various individuals and groups representing the Catholic Church but never has an official apology been issued by a pope.

The Indigenous visitors – 30 delegates are expected to make the journey – are also seeking Francis’s agreement to come to Canada to make another official apology, this time on Canadian soil.

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