In his first public remarks during a trip to Canada, Pope Francis apologized to survivors of abuse at Catholic residential schools for Indigenous children.
“I am deeply sorry,” the pope said, on the grounds of a former boarding school in Maskwacis, near Edmonton.
He said his apology is a first step and that a “serious investigation” into the abuse must take place so that the trauma can be overcome.
Indigenous chief does hair for Pope Francis during trip to Canada
The pontiff is in Canada to apologize for the Church’s role in schools aimed at converting indigenous children.
The schools, funded by the Canadian government, were part of a policy to destroy Indigenous cultures.
The papal apology was met with applause from survivors in the audience, some of whom traveled from far and wide to hear the pope speak.
Francis expressed “his sadness, outrage and shame” at the actions of members of the Roman Catholic Church, which ran most residential schools in Canada.
The 85-year-old pope called the school system a “disastrous error” and asked forgiveness “for the wrong done by so many Christians” against indigenous people.
Also present at the event were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon, the first Indigenous person to hold the position – whose role is to represent Queen Elizabeth II in the country, as the monarch is the head of the country. state of Canada, a constitutional government the monarchy.
Ahead of his address, the pope met privately with local church leaders and led a silent prayer at Ermineskin Cree Nation Cemetery, where there are identified – and likely unidentified – graves of boarding school students. .
The former site of the Ermineskin boarding school, one of the largest in Canada, is the first stop on the pope’s journey – which the pontiff has called “a pilgrimage of penance.”
Many have called on the pope to apologize for the role the Catholic Church has played in running up to 70% of boarding schools in Canada.
Schools began operating in the 1870s, with the last closed in 1996. During this time, approximately 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were removed from their homes and interned in these facilities.
The pope’s statements on Monday (7/25) follow a historic April apology to an indigenous delegation to the Vatican, at the time Francis said boarding schools were a cause for “pain and shame.”
The apology was welcomed by indigenous leaders, but some urged the pope to act.
Also in Edmonton, the Pope will visit the Church of the Sacred Heart of First Peoples, Canada’s first national parish.
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