Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday April 5, 2022
The Vatican holds billions in assets. Residential school survivors say the Pope should step up on compensation
As a Canadian delegation prepares for its final meeting with Pope Francis in the Vatican Friday, a growing chorus in Canada is hoping Francis commits to immediately remedying the Roman Catholic Church’s broken compensation promises to residential school survivors.
Canadian bishops announced a renewed fundraising effort last fall — $30 million over five years — and say work is well underway.
But critics are skeptical. Even if that money can be raised, they say it’s wrong to make the dwindling number of elderly survivors wait that long. They say that if Canadian bishops won’t do it immediately, the Vatican should.
Although all the full specifics of the Vatican’s holdings are unknown, a tabulation of known assets puts them in the tens or possibly hundreds of billions of dollars.
Survivors say the compensation money isn’t for them — it’s to fund addictions and mental health supports, job training, recreation, language preservation and other programs for their descendants suffering through intergenerational trauma.
“It affected my children, my grandchildren. So many are lost,” said survivor and mental health worker Audrey Eyahpaise of the Beardy’s & Okemasis Cree Nation.
The survivors say the Vatican is just as responsible as the local religious orders and dioceses.
“This has been a struggle for many years. They’ve been patient. They keep hearing broken promises,” said University of Saskatchewan Indigenous studies professor and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation member Bonita Beatty.
“It’s a hierarchy. They report up to the Vatican. So yes, he [Pope Francis] is responsible for the various arms of his government. He can’t just wash his hands of it.”
Francis’s supporters say he has moved the church toward greater transparency, but a definitive dollar figure of the Roman Catholic Church’s wealth remains unavailable.
CBC News collected publicly available information to obtain a partial list of the church’s assets. They include:the Vatican, Vatican Bank, art and architecture, investments, and land. (CBC)