The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations held a press conference Friday morning saying Pope Francis needs to apologize for the church’s role in residential schools. They asked Catholic congregants to help push for an apology by not attending church services.
“This is something that everybody and every Christian can do is have that show of solidarity and not show up for church on Sunday,” said Felix Thomas, chief of the Kinistin Saulteaux Nation, during the conference.
The FSIN is again calling for accountability less than a week after Pope Francis spoke to crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square, expressing sorrow for the 215 First Nations children found buried in a mass grave in Kamloops, BC, but falling short of apologizing for the church’s role in residential schools.
Thomas said that keeping pews empty would send a message to the Roman Catholic hierarchy that congregants care about what happened in residential schools and want a meaningful apology.
“This has been going on for 30-plus years and that’s something we want to emphasize,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming and this has to be the finish line.”
FSIN vice-chief David Pratt added that the discovery has opened up old wounds. He extended an invitation to the pope to visit Saskatchewan to tour residential schools and witness the lasting trauma. He also asked the Catholic church to release records of residential schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996.
“As far as I’m concerned, if you cannot recognize the harms and impacts that you and your organization has done to individuals, I think you’ve lost the moral leadership to be able to address and speak on behalf of your congregates,” Pratt said.
He added that he expects more bodies to be found at residential school sites, and wants Catholics to speak with their church leaders and implore the institution “to do what’s right and to apologize.”