Just days away from meeting Pope Francis at the Vatican, Mitchell Case admits he’s not sure how he feels or what he hopes to get out of the experience.
“I don’t know. I think my experience has been every time I get the chance to spend a week with really, really cool mixed-race elders, it usually impacts me and changes me for the better. I can talk more about this experience because I’ve spent my life meeting mixed-race elders, not meeting the pope. I can’t really tell you,” said Case, who is one of nine members of the delegation from the Métis National Council (MNC).
The RNM, accompanied by delegations from the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), will depart this weekend for Rome. Each delegation has scheduled separate meetings with Pope Francis, with the MNC and ITK meeting with him on March 28 and the AFN on March 31. There will then be a joint meeting with the pope on April 1.
Case, 31, is a counselor and former youth chair for the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO). Previously, he worked as the Director of Student Services at Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig in Sault Ste. Married. The First Nations Post-Secondary School is located on the site of the former Shingwauk Residential School.
Case’s great-grandmother attended this school. While she died before she was born, he says family members said she would only confirm she had been there and would never say more about her experience.
“In some ways, I’ve been preparing for this almost my whole life. I spent most of my career working with residential school survivors and I feel like they prepared me in so many ways,” he said.
Case is not Catholic. He was raised as an Anglican but for the past 10 years has been practicing traditionally and spiritually with Three Fires Midewiwin Lodge. He says his Anglican priest at his hometown St. James parish says they will be praying for him this Sunday.
The Anglican Church also operated residential schools in Canada. However, unlike the Catholic Church, Anglicans have issued an apology for their role in the system, which arrived in 1992.
Case says he is looking forward to traveling with the Elders who are part of the delegation.
“That’s the real importance of this. To go with them and listen to them and hear what they say to the pope and hear what they say to us,” Case said. “For me, being with Elders is a really, really impactful time.”
Although Case has his own message he would like to convey to the Holy Father, he says it is unclear if he will get the chance. He says last-minute complications with the translation “will eat away at some of the time.”
If he succeeds in delivering his message, he says, it will be based on remarks Pope Francis wrote years ago: “Confession cleanses the soul of the sinner, it does not help the victim. Our whole church needs forgiveness. Where is our humility? Sin is a wound, a stain. It needs to be healed, cured. Forgiveness is not enough. »
“My message to the pope is that the Catholic Church hasn’t even apologized,” Case said. “You haven’t even gotten to the confession part, let alone restitution, let alone healing the victim. I wrote it with much more eloquence than that.
The MNC will raise its voice with the other delegations for Pope Francis to come to Canada to offer an official apology.
The pope has indicated his willingness to visit Canada after receiving an invitation letter from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops last year. No date or place has been set for this visit and the pope has not promised to apologize.
Speaking at a virtual media event yesterday, Northwest Territories Regional Chief Gerald Antoine, who is leading the AFN delegation, said, “Our hope is that this visit and a potential visit from the Pope coming to us here in our territories offers a certain measure of dignity and also respect for these survivors and the intergenerational survivors of residential schools.
Antoine, who is the AFN portfolio holder for Residential Schools and Survivors, is one of 11 delegates, representing all regions of the country, and two spiritual advisors making the trip. National Chief RoseAnne Archibald is not part of the delegation. However, former national chief Phil Fontaine, whose meeting with Pope Benedict XV in 2009 did not result in an apology, will make a return trip as Manitoba’s representative. Also participating will be Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, representing British Columbia. The first unmarked residential school graves were discovered in his community, at the former Kamloops residential school.
In addition to providing recommendations to the Pope on how he can come to Canada and apologize, the AFN will also ask the Pope to revoke the 1493 doctrine of discovery or terra nullius, while recognizing the value of culture native; return church lands on First Nations to First Nations; and make a long-term financial commitment to ensure support programs for survivors and intergenerational survivors.
Quebec Cree Grand Chief Mandy Gull Masty, who is also part of the AFN delegation, says it’s important the pope and the church understand that their commitment doesn’t end with an apology.
“I have great confidence in the message that has been chosen and I am very open and willing to listen and engage with the Catholic Church and the Pope to find out how he intends to respond. I think the obligation is on his part to understand that this delegation is one of diplomacy. But I think he is in a position where, in order to receive this delegation, there must be additional steps on his part, “said Gull Masty.
To that end, Case points out, MNC President Cassidy Caron, who is also making the trip to Rome, has arranged meetings with other high-ranking Vatican members. These include the heads of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican Archives, the Vatican Museum, and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. They are still awaiting confirmation of other appointments.
Case says discussions will include releasing more residential school records.
President Natan Obed is the only ITK representative although he is accompanied by seven or eight other Inuit delegates, ITK spokeswoman Patricia D’Souza said.
As for the Manitoba Métis Federation, which separated from the MNC last September, it has no representation on the MNC delegation.
“The Red River Métis Nation, along with its government, the Manitoba Métis Federation, will continue to work on a schedule to visit the Vatican,” MMF spokesperson Kat Patenaude said in a statement to Windspeaker. .com.
The meeting with the pope was originally scheduled for mid-December 2021 but had to be postponed due to coronavirus concerns.
By Shari Narine, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Windspeaker.com, Windspeaker.com