Two weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in a mass grave on the grounds of Kamloops Indian Residential School in BC, leaders of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) are calling for Catholics to do their part to send a message to the church.
According to a Friday (June 11) report from Canadian news outlet Prince Albert, Kinistin Chief Felix Thomas called for Catholics to boycott mass in order to show solidarity with Indigenous people in Canada, many of whom were forced to attend residential schools that the Christian church facilitated. Thomas says that Pope Francis needs to apologize for the church’s role in the mandatory schooling at the infamous institutions.
“This is something that everybody and every Christian can do is have that show of solidarity and not show up for church on Sunday,” Thomas said of the boycott.
In 2008, the Canadian government apologized to the Parliament for their role in facilitating the residential schools, which were often the sites of child abuse, sexual abuse and other atrocities. Many times, students, who were forced to convert to Christianity, lost touch with their parents. While Pope Francis addressed the matter in St. Petersburg last week, the FSIN doesn’t think it amounted to an apology.
FSIN Vice Chief David Pratt has invited Pope Francis to visit the residential schools to see the damage that’s been done. Still, Pratt doesn't feel that the Pope is equipped to lead the church.
“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.
For his part, Thomas thinks this moment marks an opportunity to make things right. “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.”