The archbishop of Edmonton says the apology from Pope Francis for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the residential school system is just the first step on the road to healing.
Archbishop Richard Smith, who was part of a delegation to the Vatican that included several Indigenous leaders, says the apology was a milestone and historic and is part of a springboard for reconciliation.
The Indigenous groups involved in the delegation also requested the church provide reparations, return artifacts and share any documents about residential schools.
Smith says although the pontiff has indicated he intends to visit Canada, nothing will be official until it’s announced by the Vatican.
But he believes he will visit and that Pope Francis wants to repeat his apology on Canadian soil.
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Smith says the Pope also made it clear to the bishops that an apology needs to be followed up with concrete action, especially at the local level.
“Indigenous peoples across the country are distinct and they’re autonomous. We’ve got to be really careful to avoid a perpetuation of colonial mentality, whereby we say to them: ‘Here are your problems — we know how to fix it and here’s what we will do for you,”’ Smith said.
“Those days are over.”