The Pope has apologized for the abuses of the Catholic Church against Indigenous peoples in Canada

Pope Francis issued a formal apology to Indigenous peoples in Canada for abuses perpetrated by some Catholics, “especially those with educational responsibilities,” in residential schools. The religious leader delivered his address to a room of just under 200 representatives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, many of whom are residential school survivors who traveled to the Vatican to meet the pope last week. last.

More than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were forced to attend government-funded Christian schools beginning in 1831. The last boarding school closed in 1997.

The pope said he felt “outrage, shame and sadness” at the role played by members of the Catholic Church in the tearing apart of indigenous families and the physical and sexual violence against young people, as well as for the deaths of countless people buried in unmarked graves.

“I ask God’s forgiveness and I want to say with all my heart: I am truly sorry. I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking for your forgiveness,” he said.

The pope said he was “deeply saddened” by the stories of suffering, hardship and forms of abuse shared with him this week by indigenous leaders and by the thoughts of the “great number of children who have been victims of attempts at standardization.

He called it frightening when actions taken in the name of a religion go against the principles of love and mutual understanding that the faith is supposed to focus on.

“It’s frightening to think of efforts to create a sense of inferiority and strip people of their cultural identity,” he said.

The pope also acknowledged that the unresolved trauma caused by the abuses of the Catholic Church has become intergenerational.

“Without historical memory and commitment to learning from past mistakes, issues remain unresolved and keep coming back,” he said. “Unfortunately, the colonial mentality remains prevalent.”

Following the Pope’s apology, Indigenous peoples greeted this historic day with mixed emotions.

Some celebrations then took place in St. Peter’s Square, a large square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, where the papal enclave is located.

The Pope said he hopes to visit Canada in July.

The Hope for Wellness Helpline offers immediate mental health counseling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples in Canada, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Those who may need help can call 1-855-242-3310 or visit their website to chat.

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Martha J. Finley