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Pope apologizes for ‘deplorable’ atrocities against Canadian indigenous people

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Pope Francis delivers prayers from a window overlooking St.Peter's Square at the Vatican on February 27, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Pope Francis has issued a "historic" apology to the Canadian indigenous people for the “deplorable” crimes by some members of the church in Canada's residential schools.

In the past two centuries, the Church ran Indigenous Residential Schools in Canada with the aim of assimilating the Indigenous children into society. About 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and taken to prison-like schools where they were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition. Many children died and were buried in unmarked graves.

In 2015, the Canadian government-sponsored Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating the atrocities against natives described the Church’s acts as “cultural genocide.”

On Friday, Pope Francis, in an address to native leaders after meetings with delegates from various indigenous nations, said he, alongside Canadian bishops, apologizes for the atrocities.

“I feel shame, sorrow and shame, … for the deplorable behavior of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness from God and I would like to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am very pained," he said, speaking in Italian, adding, "I join my brother Canadian bishops in apologizing."

Pope Francis admitted that the unfair policies and systemic atrocities against the indigenous people, which continued for many generations, still traumatize the natives in Canada to this day.

He said the deeds of “a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, had in all these things that wounded you … unresolved traumas that have become intergenerational traumas."

The Pope ended his apology by vowing to pay a visit to Canada’s indigenous people.

The new President of the Metis National Council and the head of one indigenous delegation to Vatican, described Pope’s Francis' words as “historic.”

"The pope's words today were historic to be sure. They were necessary and I appreciate them deeply," Cassidy Caron said on Friday in Rome after Pope Francis apologized, adding that, "it opens a door for the Metis Nation to continue moving forward on our healing journey and it opens a door for us to continue to fight for action."

She pointed out that the Pope’s apology was a good first step, however, she insisted that there was still a lot more that needed to be done for reconciliation, and to advance the interests and rights of the indigenous people of Canada.

Caron had tweeted on Thursday that indigenous artifacts held by the Vatican also needed to be removed and returned to their rightful cultural owners in Canada.

"What they now need to recognize is that they hold things of ours that tell our story, and these are our priceless cultural works and they do need to come home.”

— Cassidy Caron (@cassidy_caron) March 30, 2022

In response to the Pope’s promise to visit Canada, she said, "I now look forward to the pope's visit to Canada."

She noted a “clear message” of the visit to Vatican for the indigenous people was that “by working together with our Inuit and First Nations brothers and sisters we can accomplish anything.”


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