The Pope apologizes for the abuses of the Catholic Church
In his first public address in Canada, Pope Francis has apologized to survivors of indigenous residential schools.
“I’m very sorry,” the pope said at a former residential school in Maskwacis, near Edmonton.
He said his apology is the first step and that a “serious investigation” into the abuses needs to happen to promote healing.
Pope Francis expressed “pain, indignation and shame” at the actions of many members of the Roman Catholic Church, who run the majority of residential schools in Canada.
The 85-year-old pope called the school system a “catastrophic mistake” and apologized “for the evil committed by many Christians” against indigenous peoples.
His remarks were heard by indigenous leaders who gathered at Muskwa Park along with First Nations, Métis and Inuit residential school survivors.
The Pope’s pardon was met with applause from survivors in the audience, some of whom traveled from far away to hear his speech.
Also in attendance were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon, the first Indigenous person to hold that position.
The Pope is in Canada to apologize for the church’s role in schools aimed at assimilating indigenous children.
The government-funded schools were part of a policy aimed at destroying indigenous cultures and languages.
Before his remarks, the pope met privately with local church leaders and led a silent prayer at the Ermineskin Cree Nation Cemetery, where there are marked and likely unmarked graves of residential school students.
The former site of the Ermineskin Residential School, one of the largest in Canada, is the Pope’s first stop on his journey, in what the Pope has called “a pilgrimage of repentance”.
Many have called on the Pope to apologize for the role the Roman Catholic Church has played in running up to 70% of residential schools in Canada.