Jul 25, 2022 - World

Pope Francis asks Indigenous victims for forgiveness during Canada trip

Pope Francis arrives to meet with Indigenous leaders at Muskwa Park in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada, on July 25, 2022.
Pope Francis arrives to meet with Indigenous leaders at Muskwa Park in Maskwacis, Alberta, Canada, on July 25. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis publicly apologized on Monday for the Catholic Church's role in the "evil" that generations of Indigenous children suffered at Canadian residential schools.

Driving the news: "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," Francis said Monday.

  • "I am deeply sorry, sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples," Francis said.
  • "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.”

Francis arrived in the country on Sunday. "This is a trip of penance. Let's say that is its spirit," he told reporters.

The big picture: Hundreds of suspected unmarked graves have been discovered over the last year at the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous children. Roughly 150,000 children from 1883 to 1996 were forced to "assimilate" into white Canadian society by attending the schools.

  • Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission has described the education scheme as nothing short of "cultural genocide."
  • Francis publicly apologized in April for abuses at the schools, which was the first time he offered a public apology.

What he's saying: "I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples," he said.

  • "It is painful to think of how the firm soil of values, language and culture that made up the authentic identity of your peoples was eroded. That you have continued to pay the price of this."
  • Francis also said "an important part of the process" is to conduct an investigation into the events that took place and "assist the survivors of the residential school to experience healing from the traumas they suffered."

What's next: Francis will also visit sites of former schools in Alberta, Quebec City and Iqaluit, Nunavut, during his six-day trip.

Go deeper: Canada First Nation finds mass grave at another school site

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