Pope apologizes to indigenous people of Canada, asks ‘forgiveness’ amid promise of visit
Pope Francis on Friday issued an apology on behalf of some members of the Roman Catholic Church in the Canadian residential school system after meeting with 62 First Nation, Inuit and Métis delegations, who traveled to Europe to seek out an audience, multiple outlets report.
The move from Francis comes after it was revealed last year that Indigenous children were abused by members of the Catholic Church and dozens of unmarked graves were discovered with the remains of Indigenous children, The New York Times reports.
“I also feel shame … sorrow and shame for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, and the abuses you suffered and the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,” said Francis, in part, while addressing a crowd in Vatican City, CBC reports.
“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, 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,” Francis continued.
Francis also announced that he will be traveling to Canada to express his efforts for reconciliation and healing for the victims of the abuses in Canada, reports the Times.
The Indigenous delegates also beseeched Francis to revoke a 1493 papal ordinance that was issued by Pope Alexander VI that granted Spain authority over lands in the Americas that were just discovered by Europeans.
This papal bull permitted the Spanish to colonize and enslave Indigenous peoples and forcibly convert them to Catholicism against their wills, notes the Times.
“Because we didn’t have souls, that gave the right for these explorers to do whatever they wanted with Indigenous Peoples — murder, rape, enslave,” Kaluhyanu:wes Michelle Schenandoah, an Oneida Nation member, explained.
The pontiff said that he would travel to Canada at the time of the Feast of St. Anne, which falls around July 26, the Canadian outlet notes.
The abuse of Indigenous people took place in the residential school systems between the 1880s and the 1990s. The Canadian government ran the mandatory boarding school for Indigenous people that has been called a “cultural genocide” by the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Times reports.
The Catholic Church operated 70 percent of these mandatory boarding schools for Indigenous people, in which 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to attend these schools where they were subjected to physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect that sometimes led to disease, notes the Times.
It is estimated that 6,000 children went missing over the course of the operation of those Canadian and Catholic Church schools.
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