It’s a historic day for Canada’s Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit People.
In their final audience with Pope Francis, the Pontiff apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system. Indigenous leaders have been at the Vatican for a week of meetings.
In his statement, the Pope said “I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry.”
Before issuing the apology, the Pope made these remarks, “Listening to your voices I was able to enter into and be deeply grieved by the stories of the suffering, hardship, discrimination, and various forms of abuse that some of you experienced, particularly in the residential schools. It’s chilling to think of determined efforts to instill a sense of inferiority, to rob people of their cultural identity, to sever their roots, and to consider all the personal and social efforts that this continues to entail. Unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas.”
He said their stories made him feel both indignation and shame and said we must continue learning from past mistakes. He asked for “God’s forgiveness.”
Pope Francis says he will also travel to Canada although no date has been set.
In the late 1800’s residential schools were set up by the Canadian government and most were run by the Catholic Church. The intent was to remove Indigenous children from their families and replace their culture with Christian beliefs. Attendance at the schools was mandatory.
Over the years thousands of children were abused and at least 4,000 deaths have been recorded but records are incomplete and missing.
In recent months, thousands of unmarked graves have been found at the sites of the former schools.
The last residential school closed in 1997.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of his or her Residential school experience or for those affected by these reports. The 24-hour crisis line is available at 1-866-925-4419.