‘I apologize’: Pope Francis apologizes for abuse in boarding schools

Pope Francis issued a public apology for the role the Catholic Church played in Canada’s residential school system during his visit to the former site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in Maskwacis, Alta.

“I am here because the first step of my penitential pilgrimage among you is to ask you for forgiveness again, to tell you once again that I am deeply sorry. Sorry for the ways in which, sadly, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that be oppressing indigenous peoples. I’m sorry,” the Pope said in the official apology from him on Monday.

“I apologize, in particular, for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities cooperated, especially through their indifference, in the projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of the time, culminating in the residential school system,” he continued.

The pope recalled the child-sized moccasins that were presented to him at the Vatican meeting with First Nations delegations in March, saying the pair’s symbolism was a reminder of his feeling of “sadness, anger and shame.” .

“The memory of those children is painful; it urges us to work to ensure that every child is treated with love, honor and respect,” she said.

This apology comes more than seven years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission published its calls for action. The commission’s 58th call to action urged the Pope to issue an apology on Canadian soil for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system.

Pressure on the Pope to come to Canada and issue an apology had mounted after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops BC last year, which was followed by similar discoveries at many other former residential school sites. in all the country.

Pope Francis said his visit would not take him to every community to which he received an invitation, but he acknowledged the pain felt by all of Canada’s indigenous communities.

“Know that I am aware of the suffering and trauma, of the difficulties and challenges, experienced by indigenous peoples in all regions of this country. The words that I pronounce along this penitential path are for every native community and person. I hug you all with love,” he said.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that approximately 150,000 indigenous children attended the residential school system, mostly forcibly, from the late 19th century to 1996.

Of the 139 schools in the system, more than half had been run by the Catholic Church. The commission estimates that approximately 4,100 to 6,000 children died of abuse and neglect while in the residential school system.

more to come


If you are a former survivor of a struggling residential school, or have been affected by the residential school system and need help, you can contact the 24-hour Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419

Additional resources and mental health support for indigenous peoples are available here.

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