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The Pope Has Apologized For Catholic Church Abuses Of Indigenous People In Canada

Pope Francis said he felt "indignation, shame, and sorrow."

Pope Francis speaking with his right hand raised.

Pope Francis speaking with his right hand raised.

Pope Francis has issued a formal apology to Indigenous people in Canada for the abuses perpetrated by some Catholics, "especially those with educational responsibilities," at residential schools. The religious leader delivered his remarks to a room of just under 200 representatives of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities — many of whom are residential school survivors who travelled to the Vatican to meet with the Pope this past week.

Over 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were forced to attend government-funded Christian schools starting in 1831. The last residential school closed in 1997.

The Pope said he felt "indignation, shame, and sorrow" about the role of Catholic Church members in tearing Indigenous families apart and enacting physical and sexual abuse against youth, and for the deaths of untold numbers who were buried in unmarked graves.

"I ask for God's forgiveness and I want to say with all my heart: I am very sorry. I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon," he said.

The Pope said he was "deeply grieved" by the stories of suffering, hardship, and forms of abuse shared with him this week by Indigenous leaders and by thoughts of "the great numbers of children who fell victim to attempts to create uniformity."

He called it frightening when actions taken in the name of a religion counter the principles of love and mutual understanding that the faith is supposed to centre on.

"It's chilling to think of efforts to create a sense of inferiority and rob people of their cultural identity," he said.

The Pope also acknowledged that the unresolved traumas caused by Catholic Church abuses have become intergenerational.

"Without historical memory and a commitment to learning from past mistakes, problems remain unresolved and keep coming back," he said. "Unfortunately, colonial mentality remains widespread."

Following the Pope's apology, Indigenous people acknowledged the historic day with mixed emotions.

Some celebrations later took place in St. Peter's Square, a large plaza in front of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, where the papal enclave is located.

The Pope said he hopes to visit Canada in July.

The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-855-242-3310, or visit their website to chat.

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