Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Pope Francis Apologizes to Indigenous Peoples for Abuses at Residential Schools

Pope Francis has apologized to Indigenous peoples for the abuses they suffered and the deplorable conduct of members of the Catholic Church at residential schools in Canada. 

Addressing delegates of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis at the Vatican, Pope Francis said he was “deeply grieved by the stories of the suffering, hardship, discrimination and various forms of abuse that some of you experienced, particularly in the residential schools.” 

“It is chilling to think of determined efforts to instill a sense of inferiority, to rob people of their cultural identity, to sever their roots, and to consider all the personal and social effects that this continues to entail: unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas,” said the Pope.

Pope Francis said he felt sorrow and shame for the “role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded” Indigenous peoples, and in the “lack of respect shown” for their identity, culture and spiritual values. He apologized for the “deplorable conduct” of those members of the Catholic Church, saying, “I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.” 

Between 1883 and 1996, over 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly sent to residential schools, many of which were operated by the Roman Catholic Church. A large number of Indigenous children never returned to their homes. In its report in 2012, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada said, “We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada.”

On May 27, 2021, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation announced the discovery of a mass grave with the remains of 215 Indigenous children in Kamloops, British Columbia, at the site of what used to be the largest Indigenous residential school. Last week the remains of 751 bodies, mostly of children, were discovered at the Marieval Indian Residential School site in Saskatchewan, where the Cowessess First Nation is located. Yesterday, the Lower Kootenay Band said that it found the remains of 182 people near the grounds of the former St. Eugene’s Mission Residential School near Cranbrook in BC.

On February 15, 2022, Keeseekoose Chief Lee Kitchimonia announced the discovery of 54 potential gravesites at former residential school sites around Keeseekoose First Nation in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. 

In January 2021, Williams Lake First Nation announced the discovery of 93 unmarked graves on the grounds of St Joseph Mission, a former residential school.

Pope Francis with First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegations at the Vatican. Photo credit: The Vatican.

Pope Francis said that he would visit Canada on the days of the feast of Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. Addressing the delegates, Pope Francis said, “it is my hope that our meetings in these days will point out new paths to be pursued together, instill courage and strength, and lead to greater commitment on the local level. Any truly effective process of healing requires concrete actions. In a fraternal spirit, I encourage the Bishops and the Catholic community to continue taking steps towards the transparent search for truth and to foster healing and reconciliation.” 

Author profile
Poonam Sharma
Editor

Poonam is a multi-media journalist, and Founder and Editor of Global Strat View. She was the Managing Editor of India America Today (IAT) for seven years, and launched its print edition in 2019 with IAT's Founder and Editor, the late Tejinder Singh.

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