First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates are scheduled today to have a final meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

The groups had individual meetings with the Pope earlier this week and expressed hope that the Roman Catholic Church would apologize for its role in residential schools.

Each group asked that an apology take place in Canada.

Phil Fontaine, a former national chief with the Assembly of First Nations, has said he expects to hear more details about a trip by the Pope to Canada, and a possible apology, at the final meeting. 

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The meeting is to be much more public than the others, with an expected exchange of prayers and cultural ceremonies.

Fontaine said earlier this week that the pressure on the church is immense after the discovery of unmarked graves at former sites of residential schools across Canada.

"The eyes of the world were upon us here,” he said Thursday after First Nations delegates met with the Pope.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools and more than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

More than 30 of the official Indigenous delegates have spent the week telling the head of the church about their experiences with residential schools and intergenerational trauma. 

The theme of the delegation is Walking Together Toward Healing and Reconciliation.

Beyond the apology, they have asked Catholics to commit to walking a journey of reconciliation. For many delegates that includes returning Indigenous lands, rescinding papal orders such as the Doctrine of Discovery, and turning over all relevant documents.

In all, about 170 people have taken part in the journey to the Vatican. Beyond official delegates, there are family members and others to provide support. There are also staff for the Assembly of First Nations, Metis National Council and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami. Many will also be taking part in the final audience with the Pope. 

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops organized the delegation and have some bishops attending.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2022.