KAMLOOPS, B.C. - Leaders of a British Columbia First Nation say it would be "deeply meaningful" to welcome Pope Francis to their territory during a visit to Canada.
A statement from the Tk̓emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation at Kamloops, B.C., says the visit would have to be more than a symbol of reconciliation and be accompanied by "real action."
The statement urges the Catholic Church to provide an apology from the Pope for its role in the abuse of Indigenous children forced to attend Canada's residential schools.
The First Nation also urges the church to "demonstrate acts of contrition" and fulfil promises to disclose residential school documents and raise funds for survivors and their families.
The Vatican said this week that Pope Francis is willing to visit Canada at a date yet to be determined.
The legacy of Canada's federally funded, church-run residential schools was underscored in May, when the Tk̓emlúps announced more than 200 suspected unmarked graves had been detected at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.
More graves have been found since then at the sites of several former schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan.
Tk̓emlúps Chief Rosanne Casimir says it would be a "historic moment" if Pope Francis were to visit the First Nation. Survivors would expect the church to live up to legal and financial obligations.
“For the Pope to come to Canada without real action, with simply the objective of reconciliation, glosses over and ignores this hard truth," she says.
The statement says Casimir andTerry Teegee, B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, have been named to the provincial contingent of Indigenous leaders planning to travel to the Vatican to meet with the Pope in December.