Apr 1, 2022 - World

Pope Francis apologizes to Indigenous peoples for abuse at schools in Canada

Pope Francis in Vatican City on March 25th.
Pope Francis in the Vatican City on March 25. Photo: Grzegorz Galazka/Archivio Grzegorz Galazka/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Pope Francis apologized on Friday for abuses that Indigenous children suffered while in Canada’s residential schools ran by the Catholic Church and other Christian sects from the 19th century until the 1970s.

Why it matters: Nearly 150,000 Indigenous children are believed to have been forced away from their families into the schools, which were set up to convert them to Christianity and assimilate them into mainstream society.

  • Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission had described the education scheme as nothing short of "cultural genocide."

What they're saying: Francis' appeal for forgiveness came after he met with members of the Metis, Inuit and First Nations communities this week, who traveled to Rome seeking an apology and promise that the church would help repair damages.

  • “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," he added, also vowing to visit Canada.

The big picture: Conditions in the schools became starkly apparent last year after hundreds of remains, mainly of Indigenous children, were discovered in unmarked graves at former residential school sites in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

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