Rossland-born Cassidy Caron, now president of the Métis National Council, travelled to Rome last week alongside a delegation of Métis residential school survivors, leaders and community members to meet with the Pope in the Vatican and finally hear an apology from the Catholic Church.
“Yesterday, I sat beside three Métis Residential School Survivors as they heard the words ‘I am very sorry’ spoken by Pope Francis, the head of the Catholic Church,” Caron shared on a social media post. “To see and to feel their reactions to those words was one of the most moving moments of my life, one I will surely never forget.
“This moment was for them and I know it changed their lives.”
The pontiff stood before a room of nearly 200 Indigenous delegates in the Sala Clementina, one of the halls of the Apostolic Palace, and asked for God’s forgiveness for the deplorable conduct of church members.
“I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” Francis said in Italian during a final meeting with First Nations, Inuit and Metis delegates.
“And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.”
Francis said he felt shame and sorrow that Catholics, particularly those in charge of education, caused such significant harm. He also said he will come to Canada, possibly in the summer.
“There is power in our stories,” said Caron. “Pope Francis felt compelled to make this apology after sitting with and listening to the stories and the truths of Métis, Inuit and First Nations survivors and their families. Now, he will travel to our Homelands to meet with more survivors in our communities and, hopefully, deliver a similar, if not more powerful, apology directly to those who deserve to hear those words.”
The hour-long meeting was a mix of solemn prayer with moments of laughter, music and dance. Elder Fred Kelly prayed for the children who went to residential schools and another prayer was done in the Dene language. “Our Father” was sung in Inuktitut.
It was the culmination of years of work in Canada and a week of meetings at the Vatican, said Chief Gerald Antoine, the Assembly of First Nations delegation lead.
It felt like seeing fresh moose tracks in the snow, Antoine said, when you know there’s a real possibility of success.
For Caron, the experience was a defining moment in Indigenous history, and she intends to see that more is done to hold the church accountable.
“I know that actions speak louder than words,” Caron continued. “And I’m committed to holding the Catholic Church accountable to implementing the actions we all spoke about this week. Actions that will move us forward down a path of truth, healing, and justice.”
To view Caron’s posts and photos on Instagram visit: President_Cassidy_Caron.
–With files from Canadian Press