Local MP Frank Caputo has invited Pope Francis to visit the Kamloops-Thompson Cariboo riding when he visits Canada next year to assist with reconciliation efforts with First Nations.
On Oct. 27, the Vatican announced the Pope has accepted an invitation from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to visit the country in a bid of reconciliation on a date yet to be determined.
Caputo met with papal nuncio Ivan Jurkovic at his Ottawa residence on Nov. 4, asking him to relay a request to the Pope to make the stop in the riding during his trip to Canada. Caputo told KTW the discussions were preliminary in nature, when asked what was Jurkovic’s response to the request.
A papal nuncio diplomatic is the representative of the Holy See, which is the central governing body of the Catholic Church.
Caputo has also drafted a letter to the Vatican, formally inviting the Pope to Kamloops, in which the MP describes such a trip as “a significant opportunity for the Catholic Church to continue the ongoing commitment to reconciliation and dialogue with Indigenous peoples in Canada.”
The letter noted the riding includes Tk’emlups te Secwépemc, which announced in May it discovered signs of 200 probable graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Residential School using a ground penetrating radar survey (GPR).
In the letter, Caputo said a papal visit to the riding would align with the Pope’s longstanding pastoral process of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
The Tk’emlups band has also invited Pope Francis to visit its reserve on the trip and meet survivors of the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Chief Rosanne Casimir is also asking the Pope to issue an apology for the church’s role in abuses First Nations students suffered while attending Catholic-run residential schools.
The band’s announcement of probable graves sparked international attention and outcry over Canada’s former residential school system, and other GPR searches that followed on residential school properties in B.C. and Saskatchewan yielded signs of more graves.
“It would be deeply meaningful to welcome the Holy See, Pope Francis, to Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc, as our heart-wrenching news was the first of the wave of confirmations of unmarked graves with thousands more lives lost coming to light,” Casimir said in a statement issued the day after the Vatican’s announcement.
Following Tk’emlúps’ announcement in May, Pope Francis expressed sorrow over the “shocking discovery,” but has stopped short of issuing a direct apology for the church’s role in the resident school system.
“It’d be a historic moment for Kamloops Residential Indian School Survivors and for our community, who continues to navigate the impacts following the horrific confirmation of the missing children,” Casimir said.
In addition to asking for an apology from Pope Francis, Tk’emlúps wants the Catholic Church to hand over all documents related to its operation of residential schools and to contribute money to help residential school survivors.
The band has also called on the federal government and the church for a full release documentation related to the Kamloops Residential School to assist with its investigation of the possible burial site.