A previously-announced delegation will not be meeting with the Pope this December due to concerns about the omicron variant.

A joint statement from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Assembly of First Nations, Métis National Council, and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami is announcing Tuesday that a previously-planned delegation with Pope Francis is on pause.

"The decision to postpone was a heartbreaking one, made after careful consultation with delegates, family members, community leaders, public health officials and the leadership of each of the three National Indigenous Organizations," the statement says. "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."

The event is on hold due to health concerns about the COVID-19 variant omicron. The delegation of Elders, Residential School Survivors, youth, and knowledge keepers was set to meet at the Vatican on December 17 through 20.

"The risk of infection and the fluid nature of the evolving global situation presents too great a threat at this time."

Concerns for elderly delegates coming from remote communities are a driving force in this decision. 

The group says the Holy See is "very much committed to rescheduling" a 2022 visit.

"Our shared commitment to walking together towards healing and reconciliation remains strong. "