ROME—

Pope Francis

will travel to Canada in an effort to heal relations with the country’s indigenous communities, following scandals over the abuse of generations of indigenous children at church-run residential schools.

The Vatican said on Wednesday that the pope “has indicated his willingness to visit” Canada, at a date yet to be determined, in response to a request from the country’s Catholic bishops. The pope would travel “also in the context of the long-standing pastoral process of reconciliation with indigenous peoples,” the Vatican said.

Canada’s residential schools, some of which were run by the Catholic Church, separated some 150,000 indigenous children from their families over a period of more than a century. Some 4,100 children died of disease or by accident while residing at the schools, according to a government report in 2015, which likened the school system to cultural genocide.

In May, a Canadian indigenous community on the west coast discovered the remains of more than 200 children it believes attended one of the schools. Since then, three other indigenous communities have found unmarked graves near former residential schools, bringing the total to more than a thousand graves. All four schools in question had been run by the Catholic Church.

Prime Minister

Justin Trudeau

has said that Pope Francis should apologize for the church’s role in running the schools. In September, the Catholic bishops of Canada issued a written collective apology, acknowledging “grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual.”

Canadian indigenous leaders, accompanied by a delegation of Canadian bishops, are scheduled to visit the Vatican Dec. 17-20 for private meetings with Pope Francis.

Write to Francis X. Rocca at [email protected]

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