Pope Francis asks ‘forgiveness in the name of the Church’ for abuses in residential schools

Pope Francis said Wednesday he feels the pain of survivors of Canada’s residential school system and he asked “forgiveness on behalf of the church” for the role many of its members have played in child abuse and the attempt to erase indigenous cultures.

The pope dedicated his speech at his weekly general audience to his trip last week to Canada, where he issued a historic apology for the church’s role in government-sanctioned schools, which operated between 1870 and 1996. .

Over 150,000 Aboriginal children were separated from their families and taken to residential schools. Catholic religious orders ruled most of them under the assimilation policy of successive Canadian governments.

Children were beaten for speaking their own language and many were sexually abused in a system that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called “cultural genocide”.

The Pope met with Indigenous survivors throughout the trip, and on the final day, mostly elderly school survivors from Iqaluit told him their stories in a private meeting.

“Very painful moment”

“The last encounter with the Inuit, with the young and the old, how they felt the pain of not knowing where their children had been taken [due to] these assimilation policies; it was a very painful moment to be there,” Pope Francis said, according to his translator. “We must face our mistakes and our sins.”

During the trip, the pope’s apology drew strong emotions and praise as a first step to reconciliation, but some survivors said they fell short of expectations and he didn’t apologize clearly enough. for the church as an institution.

WATCH | How the Pope’s visit to Canada went in 11 minutes:

How the Pope’s visit to Canada went in 11 minutes

In an apparent attempt to respond to criticism, he said on Wednesday that Catholic priests, nuns and laity had “participated in programs that we understand today to be unacceptable and contrary to the Gospel. That’s why I went to ask forgiveness in the name of the church.”

Some were also comforted when the pope, speaking to reporters on the plane returning to Rome on Saturday, called what happened in the schools “genocide”.

Francis, who suffers from a knee condition, walked twenty meters to his seat on the stage of the Vatican audience hall using a cane and at the end remained standing to salute a few attendees. Later, he used a wheelchair when aides moved him through the crowd.

He primarily used a wheelchair during the trip to Canada, including during his in-flight press conference on the return flight.

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