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Pope FrancisCredit: Franco Origlia / Stringer / Getty

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – Amid talks about the Church’s involvement in the Canadian residential school system, Francis has said he is planning a trip to visit Indigenous Canadians in July. 

On April 1, following a succession of meetings with Indigenous leaders, Pope Francis indicated that he may be visiting Canada to meet with Indigenous people in their “native lands” as early as July 26, the Feast Day of St. Anne.  

“You have brought the living sense of your communities here in Rome,” Francis said, referring to the meetings he had with Indigenous leaders throughout March. 

“I will be happy to benefit again from meeting you by visiting your native lands, where your families live,” continued the pope, adding that “it gives me joy, for example, to think of the veneration that has spread among many of you for St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. This year I would like to be with you during those days.” 

Francis’ meetings with Indigenous leaders were focused primarily around the Church’s involvement in the residential school system in the 19th and 20th centuries in Canada. While the schools were installed by the Canadian government, various Christian churches, including the Catholic Church, operated the schools, which were populated with Indigenous children.  

Over the years, many former students of residential schools have accused members of the Catholic clergy of abuse within the schools, while also stating that the entire purpose of the schools was to erase the Indigenous identity and replace it with a European, Christian identity, which they consider to be “cultural genocide.” 

While there were certainly instances of abuse within the residential school system, relations between the Church and the Indigenous communities have been drastically worsened over the last year by misleading reports claiming that “mass graves” of hundreds of bodies were discovered in the ground at former residential schools.  

Despite an extensive investigation by Professor Emeritus Jacques Rouillard from the Université de Montréal finding that the “discovery” of bodies at a school was actually data picked up by “ground-penetrating radar … based on depressions and abnormalities in the soil of an apple orchard near the school – not on exhumed remains,” mainstream media and even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took off with the story that bodies had been discovered, further damaging the already strained relations between the Church and Indigenous communities.  

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Since then, 68 churches have been vandalized or set on fire, some of them burning down entirely, with mainstream media and the government never clarifying that the reports of mass graves still remain unconfirmed.