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Alberta Indigenous representatives prepare to meet the Pope this month in the Vatican

Click to play video: 'Alberta residential school survivors head to Vatican' Alberta residential school survivors head to Vatican
WATCH: A delegation of Indigenous leaders from across Canada will be heading to the Vatican in just a few weeks. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, they will meet with the Pope to discuss reconciliation. – Dec 2, 2021
Representatives from Alberta Indigenous communities are hoping to continue reconciliation efforts by sharing their stories with Pope Francis later this month.

A group of around 30 First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegates from across Canada will have private meetings with the Pope starting Dec. 17.

It’s expected they will tell personal stories about the legacy of residential schools.

Read more: Calgary Catholic bishop hopes apology over residential schools will lead to healing

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“I can only pray that we will touch the heart of him somehow.  I think we have to a large degree now,” Gary Gagnon, an Alberta Metis delegate, said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta residential school survivors head to Vatican' Alberta residential school survivors head to Vatican
Alberta residential school survivors head to Vatican – Dec 2, 2021

There have been more calls for an apology since the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential school sites.

Like other delegates, Gagnon is hoping for an apology from the religious organization that ran many of those schools.

“To hear those words: ‘We’re sorry.’ And just to move on. We know it’s hard,” Gagnon said.

Read more: Indigenous leaders to have private meeting with Pope during Vatican visit

Wilton Littlechild of Ermineskin Cree Nation, as well as Metis Elder and Grande Prairie resident Angie Crerar are among the delegates from Alberta.

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A group of bishops including Calgary’s William McGrattan and Archbishop Richard Smith from Edmonton will also be attending.

“The holy father wants this to happen and he wants to hear your stories,” Smith said. “It seems to me he’s going to hear the story of pain and of heartache but he’s also going to here the story of resilience and strength.”

Click to play video: 'Ground search begins at former Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont.' Ground search begins at former Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont.
Ground search begins at former Mohawk Institute in Brantford, Ont – Nov 9, 2021

The archbishop said he is expecting emotional and open dialogue at the meeting.

“The delegates speaking from their heart to the Pope and we all know well the compassionate heart of our Holy Father. It is with that heart that he will listen and it is from that heart that he will respond,” he said.

Read more: Canada’s Catholic bishops formally apologize for role in residential school system

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The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will cover travel costs.

McGrattan hopes Pope Francis will stand in solidarity with Canadian bishops who issued an apology earlier this year over the Catholic church’s role in the residential school system.

“I believe that is why we are inviting the delegates to be present: so that he hears the impact and the pain he understands. So that he understands that this is truly significant for the church, for Canada and especially for the survivors,” the Calgary bishop said.

Click to play video: '‘Integrity is when words have meaning’: Indigenous people criticize apology, money from Canadian bishops' ‘Integrity is when words have meaning’: Indigenous people criticize apology, money from Canadian bishops
‘Integrity is when words have meaning’: Indigenous people criticize apology, money from Canadian bishops – Sep 30, 2021

“All of those who are part of the delegation have the opportunity to meet Pope Francis and to tell him of the suffering and the pain but also the joy and the hope that reconciliation can become a new reality here in Canada,” McGrattan said.

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Pope Francis has agreed to visit Canada to help reconciliation efforts.

Delegates headed to Vatican will be able to talk to the Pope about their expectations for that visit.

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