AFN National Chief and President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops Announce Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City on April 29, 2009 to Discuss Residential Schools and Reconciliation



    OTTAWA, April 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Assembly of First Nations National Chief
Phil Fontaine and the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic
Bishops, Archbishop James Weisgerber, announced today that the AFN will be
sending a delegation to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on April
29, 2009.
    "After many months of quiet but persistent diplomacy, the Assembly of
First Nations has received an invitation to meet with His Holiness, Pope
Benedict XVI," the National Chief said. "It is my fervent hope that this Papal
Audience will result in a statement from Pope Benedict XVI to all the
survivors of the Indian Residential Schools for the role that the Catholic
Church played in the administration and operation of the schools and the harms
these schools inflicted on our people. This will greatly assist the task of
healing and reconciliation for survivors, Catholics and all Canadians."
    The Catholic Church operated approximately 75% of the Indian residential
schools in Canada. Apologies for residential schools have been issued by all
the churches involved in the schools except for the Catholic Church. The
National Chief thanked the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops for their
assistance and support in making this meeting a reality, in particular
Archbishop Weisgerber and legal counsel to the Catholic Church Entities Pierre
Baribeau.
    The National Chief stated: "Our work with the Canadian Conference of
Catholic Bishops began when I spoke to their organization in September 2008,
at the invitation of Archbishop Weisgerber. Today, we are encouraged by the
willingness of Pope Benedict XVI to meet with us. This meeting has the
potential to be a historic and momentous occasion for First Nations,
survivors, Canadian Catholics and indeed all Canadians."
    The National Chief will be attending the meeting with a delegation that
includes First Nations Elders and survivors of the residential schools. The
Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will attend with a delegation of
missionary congregations involved in the residential schools and Archbishop
Weisgerber, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.




For further information:

For further information: Don Kelly, A/Communications Director, Assembly
of First Nations, (613) 241-6789 ext. 334, cell: (613) 292-2787,
dkelly@afn.ca


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