Monday, August 8, 2022

Pope Francis in Québec apologises to Canada’s indigenous communities

The apology was for the “evil committed by so many Christians” during the residential boarding school era that affected more than 150,000 native children in Canada.

• July 28, 2022
Pope Francis
Pope Francis (Photo Credit: Crux Now)

Pope Francis was in Québec on the second leg of his apology tour to the indigenous people of Canada for the “evil committed by so many Christians” during the residential boarding school era.

“I express my deep shame and sorrow and, together with the bishops of this country, I renew my request for forgiveness for the wrongs done by so many Christians to the indigenous peoples,” he said.

According to reports, he first met privately with Governor General Mary Simon, an Inuk woman and the first indigenous person to hold the role.

The pope had a 10-minute private conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Afterwards, Messrs Francis and Trudeau, as well as Ms Simon, addressed more than 50 indigenous residential school survivors, elders, knowledge keepers and Canadian dignitaries.

Ms Simon referenced the pope’s words from his visit to the Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton on Monday.

“There, you said that reconciliation is a grace that must be sought. To that, I would also add that reconciliation is a grace that must be earned through continuous hard work and understanding,” she said.

The pope, seated at the front of the room beside Ms Simon, again apologised to the indigenous communities in Canada.

He said the Holy See and the local Catholic communities “are concretely committed to promoting indigenous cultures in specific and appropriate spiritual ways that include attention to their cultural traditions, customs, languages, and educational processes in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

According to reports, more than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend government-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture.

The aim was to Christianise and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.

Ottawa has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant at the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages.

Indigenous leaders have cited that legacy of that abuse and isolation from family as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction now in Canadian reservations.

The discoveries of hundreds of potential burial sites at former schools in the past year drew international attention to the schools in Canada and their counterparts in the US.

The revelations prompted Mr Francis to comply with the Truth Commission’s call for an apology on Canadian soil; Catholic religious orders operated 66 of the country’s 139 residential schools. 


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