A delegation of residential school survivors led by Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine will travel to the Vatican on April 29 for an audience with Pope Benedict XVI.

Fontaine hopes the Vatican will formally apologize to the survivors for the abuse that Aboriginal children suffered in the residential schools. The Catholic Church was responsible for running many of the approximately 130 residential schools across Canada under Indian and Northern Affairs.

“After many months of quiet but persistent diplomacy, the Assembly of First Nations has received an invitation to meet with His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI. It is my fervent hope that this Papal Audience will result in a statement from Pope Benedict XVI to all the survivors of the Indian Residential Schools for the role that the Catholic Church played in the administration and operation of the schools and the harms these schools inflicted on our people. This will greatly assist the task of healing and reconciliation for survivors, Catholics and all Canadians,” said Fontaine in a press release.