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Pope Francis Has Issued An Historic Apology To Indigenous Residential School Survivors

"I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians…"

MTL Blog, Staff Writer
​The pope stands at a podium while people look on.

The pope stands at a podium while people look on.

The papal visit to Canada started with a long-awaited apology to Indigenous survivors of residential schools, who were subject to grave abuses by the Catholic Church.

Pope Francis toured the cemetery of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School in Alberta on Monday — one of the largest residential schools in Canada, where overcrowding and disease led to the documented deaths of over a dozen children. Physical, psychological and sexual abuse was also rampant at the site, as with many of the Catholic-run facilities.

Survivors of the school were present to hear the Pope's apology.

"I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christian against Indigenous peoples," said Pope Francis.

"The place where we are gathered renews within me the deep sense of pain and remorse that I have felt in these past months. I think about the tragic situations that so many of you, your families, and your communities have known," he said.

"I thank you for telling me about the heavy burdens that you carry… I am here as the first step of my penitential pilgrimage to ask forgiveness and tell you once more that I am deeply sorry."

He acknowledged that remembering the horrors of residential schools is painful but necessary for healing because the "opposite of love isn't hate, but indifference."

Looking forward, the Pope said his apology did not mark the end of reconciliation. He said survivors will also need ongoing support to heal from the traumas they experienced.

Pope Francis made no mention of any financial reparations from the Church to Indigenous communities.

State-funded Christian residential schools operated in Canada until the 1970s, ripping 150,000 Indigenous children from their families.

The Pope is set to arrive in Quebec City on July 27.

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society Emergency Crisis Line is available across Canada 24/7. Those who may need support can call 1-866-925-4419.

This article's left-hand cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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