Delegation Update Key Messages
December 7, 2021
- After careful assessment of the uncertainty and potential health risks surrounding international travel amid the recent spread of the Omicron variant, the Canadian Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami have jointly decided to reschedule a delegation to the Vatican in December 2021 to the earliest opportunity in 2022.
- The decision to postpone was a heartbreaking one, made after careful consultation with family members, community leaders, public health officials and the leadership of each of the three National Indigenous Organizations.
- Particularly for many elderly delegates as well as those who live in remote communities, the risk of infection and the fluid nature of the evolving global situation presents too great a threat at this time.
- We take comfort in the desire, conveyed to us by the Holy See, that the safety of the delegation should inform any decision to move forward.
- It is also important to note that the delegation is postponed, not cancelled.
- Currently, the world’s health experts are still learning about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant.
- As more information becomes available, we will continue to assess the feasibility of future travel plans, based on guidance from the Canadian government and relevant international authorities.
- Our commitment to walking together towards healing and reconciliation with our Indigenous partners remains strong.
- In fact, several Canadian Bishops are presently in Rome, speaking with Vatican officials about their shared commitment to ensure the delegation is rescheduled in a timely manner.
- We will work with all concerned, including the Holy See, to reschedule this visit in the new year and we look forward to the opportunity for Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth to participate in private meetings with Pope Francis.
What are the new dates?
Given evolving health considerations, a new date has yet to be determined. With that said, we are working closely with the Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as well as the Holy See to determine potential options. We intend to reschedule the visit at the earliest opportunity in the new year.
Will this affect directly the date of the upcoming Pope Francis trip to Canada?
Pope Francis remains committed to a pilgrimage to Canada. Additional details about these plans will be announced by the Canadian Bishops as they are confirmed.
Is this delegation trip still necessary given that the Pope is coming to Canada anyway?
Canada’s Bishops are fully committed to our ongoing work with Indigenous Peoples and communities. The delegation was a concrete outcome of requests made by our Indigenous partners, and we will continue to make every effort to ensure residential school survivors, Elders, and youth have an opportunity to share their stories and experiences with the Holy Father directly. While the decision to delay the delegation is heartbreaking, we understand that there is a strong desire from delegates to reschedule.
What does this mean for secondary delegates who paid for their own travel expenses? We are unable to comment on individual delegates’ circumstances. Having said that, there is a strong desire to work with all Indigenous Peoples who planned to travel to the Vatican on this journey, and to ensure they are supported as we determine next steps