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First Nations delegation to Vatican rescheduled due to emerging COVID-19 variant

Adeline Webber of the Yukon was among 13 delegates chosen by the Assembly of First Nations
A planned journey to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis later this month featuring Canadian Indigenous leaders and bishops has been postponed. The delegation issued a joint statement on Dec. 7 stating that the public health risk of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has forced them to reschedule to 2022. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Andrew Medichini)

Uncertainty related to the emerging Omicron COVID-19 variant has postponed an Indigenous elders’ trip to the Vatican.

First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegations planned to depart for the Vatican on Dec. 14.

Adeline Webber, a member of the Kukhhiittan Clan of the Teslin Tlingit Nation, was selected as one of 13 members of the delegation being organized by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).

On Dec. 7, the AFN announced that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and the three First Nations groups sending delegations had jointly decided to reschedule the trip to the earliest available time in 2022. The Dec. 7 statement says the choice was made out of concern for the risk of COVID-19 infection, especially for elderly delgates and those who live in rural communities.

“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 statement reads.

It says the evolving situation with the new COVID-19 variant presents too great a threat at this time. As health experts learn more about the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, future travel plans will be assesed.

“Our shared commitment to walking together towards healing and reconciliation remains strong. We understand that the Holy See is very much committed to rescheduling this visit in the new year and we look forward to the opportunity for Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth to participate in private meetings with Pope Francis,” the statement reads.

The trip to the Vatican was scheduled to precede “a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation” that the Pope pledged to make to Canada at an unspecified future date.

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Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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