Pope Francis classified this Saturday (30) as “genocide” what happened in the boarding schools that the Catholic Church and other Christian churches maintained in Canada to forcibly assimilate indigenous children.
Between 1881 and 1996, more than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and taken to these institutions. Scores of children were starved, beaten and sexually assaulted in a system the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called “cultural genocide”.
The schools were run by religious groups, mainly by Catholic priests and nuns.
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The pope made the comment as he returned to Rome from a week-long trip to Canada, where he issued a historic apology for the church’s role in politics.
An Indigenous Canadian journalist on the plane asked him why he hadn’t used the word genocide on the trip and whether he would agree that members of the Church had participated in the genocide.
“It’s true that I didn’t use the word because I didn’t think about it. But I described genocide. I apologized, I asked forgiveness for this activity, which was genocide “, Francis said.
“I condemned this: kidnapping children and trying to change their culture, their spirit, change their traditions, a race, an entire culture,” the pope added.
Last Monday, Francis traveled to the town of Maskwacis, site of two former boarding schools, where he apologized and called forced assimilation “wrong” and a “disastrous mistake”.
The pope also apologized for the Christian support for the “settler mentality” of the time.
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