Pope Francis on Friday issued a historic apology to Canada’s Indigenous peoples for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools that sought to erase their cultures and where many children were abused and buried in unmarked graves.
Francis, in an address to Indigenous leaders after meetings with delegates from various Indigenous nations, also said he hoped to visit Canada in July. One of the leaders, who wants the pope to issue an apology directly to their communities in their homelands in Canada, called his words “historic” and another said they reflected “the entirety” of his words to him. their message.
“For the deplorable behavior of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask God’s forgiveness and I would like to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am very saddened,” he said in Italian. “I join my fellow Canadian bishops in apologizing,” he said. His speech in the Vatican’s frescoed Sala Clementina was preceded by prayers from native leaders in native languages asking the “great spirit” to bless everyone present.
“The Pope’s words today were certainly historic. They were necessary and I deeply appreciate them,” said Cassidy Caron, President of the Métis National Council and leader of an Aboriginal delegation. “I now look forward to the Pope’s visit to Canada.”
Around 150,000 children have been taken from their homes. Many were victims of abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide”. The stated goal of the schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996, was to assimilate Indigenous children. They were run by Christian denominations on behalf of the government, mostly by the Catholic Church.
“PAIN AND SHAME” “I feel shame – pain and shame – for the role that a number of Catholics, especially those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that have hurt you , in the abuses you have suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,” Francis said.
Francis, who also spoke of “unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas”, told the indigenous people he was happy to know that the Catholics among them were devoted to Saint Anne, the mother of Mary. The feast of Saint Anne is July 26. “This year, I would like to be with you on that day,” he said. “I will not come in winter!” he joked with them, prompting laughter.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had also called on the pope to apologize on Canadian soil, said the country’s history “will forever be tainted” by the schools’ legacy and that he looked forward to the papal visit. “Today’s apology is a step forward in acknowledging the truth about our past. We cannot separate the legacy of the residential school system from the institutions that created, maintained and operated it, including the Government of Canada and the Catholic Church,” he said. in a report.
Scandal erupted again last year with the discovery of the remains of 215 children from the former Indian residential school in Kamloops, in the western Canadian province of British Columbia, which closed in 1978. discovery led to new claims of responsibility. Hundreds of other unmarked burial sites have since been identified. (Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Canada; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean, Gareth Jones and John Stonestreet)
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