Pope makes historic apology to Indigenous for Canada abuses

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Pope Francis on Friday made a historic apology to Indigenous Peoples for the “deplorable” abuses they suffered in Canada’s Catholic-run residential schools and said he hoped to visit Canada in late July to deliver the apology in person to survivors of the church’s misguided missionary zeal.

Francis begged forgiveness during an audience with dozens of members of the Metis, Inuit and First Nations communities who came to Rome seeking a papal apology and a commitment from the Catholic Church to repair the damage. The first pope from the Americas said he hoped to visit Canada around the Feast of St. Anna, which falls on July 26.

More than 150,000 native children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes and culture. The aim was to Christianize and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Ca-nadian governments considered superior.

The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant at the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages. That legacy of that abuse and isolation from family has been cited by Indigenous leaders as a root cause of the epidemic rates of alco-hol and drug addiction now on Canadian reserva-tions.

After hearing their stories all week, Francis told the Indigenous that the colonial project ripped chil-dren from their families, cutting off their roots, tra-ditions and culture and provoking inter-generational trauma that is still being felt today. He said it was a “counter-witness” to the same Gospel that the resi-dential school system purported to uphold.

“For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness of the Lord,” Francis said. “And I want to tell you from my heart, that I am greatly pained. And I unite myself with the Canadian bishops in apologizing.”

The trip to Rome by the Indigenous was years in the making but gained momentum last year after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves outside some of the residential schools in Canada.—AP

 

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