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ROME – The Vatican announced Wednesday that Pope Francis has “indicated his willingness” to visit Canada, after the country’s indigenous leaders repeatedly demanded that he apologize for the church’s role in the residential schools .

In a brief statement, the Vatican said the bishops of Canada had invited Francis “in the context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples” and that he had expressed “his willingness to surrender” on a date. yet to be determined.

The bishops of Canada, expressing their gratitude, said Pope Francis had accepted their invitation.

The National Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined that residential schools, the mandatory residential school system for Indigenous children, were a form of “cultural genocide.” Physical and sexual abuse, he found, was prevalent in schools, most of which were run for the government by Catholic organizations, and the commission also asked the Pope to apologize in Canada to Indigenous peoples. .

The Pope has repeatedly turned down requests for an apology from indigenous leaders as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who made a direct appeal during a meeting at the Vatican.

The announcement comes months after the remains of hundreds of Indigenous children were found in May using ground-penetrating radar at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. Similar findings have since been made elsewhere, shocking many Canadians.

In December, Francis is due to meet with representatives of three Indigenous groups in Canada: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. These sessions will take place over four days in the Vatican.

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