In Maskwacis, the former school where Francis is visiting has been replaced with a school system operated by the four local Cree nations. The curriculum affirms the Indigenous culture that was once suppressed.
Chief Greg Desjarlais of the Frog Lake First Nation in northern Alberta, a school survivor, said after the pope’s arrival Sunday that there are “mixed emotions across this country” over his visit.
“I think today of the young people that didn’t make it home and are buried around residential schools,” he told a news conference after the airport welcome ceremony. But he expressed optimism that the visit can begin to bring reconciliation.
“I do know when two people have apologized we feel better,” he said. “But our people have been through a lot. … Our people have been traumatized. Some of them didn’t make it home. Now I hope the world will see why our people are so hurt.”
On Monday afternoon, Francis is scheduled to visit Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, a Catholic parish in Edmonton oriented toward Indigenous people and culture. The church, whose sanctuary was dedicated last week after being restored from a fire, incorporates Indigenous language and customs in liturgy.
“I never in my life thought I would see a pope here at Sacred Heart Church,” said Fernie Marty, who holds the title of church elder. “And now we get that opportunity.”
When Francis visits, the church will display the clothing, bread and other supplies it regularly provides to the needy, including many of Edmonton’s estimated urban Indigenous population of 75,000.
The visit will be an “encounter” that will help “for people to know what we are, who we are,” said its pastor, the Rev. Jesu Susai.
Associated Press reporters Nicole Winfield in Edmonton and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared here.