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Pope Francis Visits Canada to Apologize for Indigenous Abuse in Catholic Schools

The holy pontiff calls the Christian treatment of Canada's indigenous peoples 'evil' and asks forgiveness for the Catholic Church's sins.
Pope Francis Visits Canada to Apologize for Indigenous Abuse in Catholic Schools

Pope Francis has spoken of his "sorrow, indignation and shame" over the Catholic Church's role in the abuse of Canadian Indigenous children in residential schools, as he kicked off a weeklong "penitential pilgrimage" to the country, reports CNN.

"I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their  indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools," the pontiff said.

Pope apologizes for 'deplorable evil' of Indigenous abuse in Canadian Catholic residential schools (CNN)

Excerpt from CNN: The Pope apologized and promised a "serious investigation" into what happened in a speech at a meeting with Indigenous peoples in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday. Indigenous leaders have long called for a papal apology for the harm inflicted for decades on Indigenous children, who suffered abuse and the erasure of Indigenous culture in the country's residential schools. Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has reported that more than 4,000 Indigenous children died either from neglect or abuse in residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church.
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The apology suggested that regardless of how long Francis remains Pope, the trip will serve as a capstone to his tenure. Much of his papacy has involved redressing wrongs committed by the Church, and he has done so by striking a note of penitence that’s relatively new to the papacy—but that he has now established as an essential part of the office, according to The New Yorker.

Pope Francis’s “Penitential Pilgrimage” to Canada’s Indigenous Communities (The New Yorker)

Excerpt from The New Yorker: "I have come to your native lands to tell you in person of my sorrow, to implore God’s forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation, to express my closeness and to pray with you and for you. I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples," the Pope said. A few moments later, after asking all those assembled to bow their heads together in silent prayer, he added, "Let us allow these moments of silence to help us interiorize our pain." 
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In a related story from the Associated Press, Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Thursday at Canada’s national shrine and came face-to-face with a long-standing demand from Indigenous peoples: to formally rescind the papal decrees underpinning the so-called "Doctrine of Discovery" that legitimized the colonial-era seizure of Native lands and resources.

‘Rescind the Doctrine’ protest greets pope in Canada (Associated Press)

Excerpt from the Associated Press: Right before Mass began, two Indigenous women unfurled a banner at the altar of the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré that read: "Rescind the Doctrine" in bright red and black letters. The protesters were escorted away and the Mass proceeded without incident, though the women later marched the banner out of the basilica and draped it on the railing. The brief protest underscored one of the lingering issues facing the Holy See following Francis’ historic apology for the Catholic Church’s involvement in Canada’s notorious residential schools, where generations of Indigenous peoples were forcibly removed from their families and cultures to assimilate them into Christian, Canadian society. Francis has spent the week in Canada seeking to atone for the trauma and suffering of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
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