Canadian bishops, Indigenous leaders postpone Vatican meeting

TORONTO (CNS) -- The long-planned encounter between Indigenous Canadians and Pope Francis in Rome is being put off while everybody learns more about the omicron variant of COVID-19, according to a joint release from three Indigenous organizations involved in the trip and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"The risk of infection and the fluid nature of the evolving global situation presents too great a threat at this time," the parties said in a Dec. 7 news release.

The trip was thrown into doubt early that morning when Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald told an online meeting of the AFN her delegation would not attend at this time.

"The health and well-being of our delegates, their families and communities is paramount to us, and we will not put anyone in harm's way if we can help it," she said.

The move appeared to catch the other two Indigenous organizations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and the Métis National Council, by surprise.

"I think there was just a little bit of miscommunication, you know," Janna Van De Sande, Métis National Council communications officer, told The Catholic Register. "And that happens with a lot of different players involved in this trip. We're trying our best to make sure that everything is being communicated."