The head of the Catholic Church Pope Francis apologized for the “evil” inflicted on Indigenous children in Canada as he visited the site of a former church-run residential school.
Pope Francis issued a long-awaited apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system, which forcibly separated Indigenous children from their families and abused them.
“I am deeply sorry. Sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples,” Francis said in Spanish, condemning the “cultural destruction” and “forced assimilation” that took place in the schools.
“I humbly beg forgiveness,” he said to a large crowd of Indigenous people. He spoke at a site in Alberta that is notorious among survivors of abuse, and said his remarks were intended for “every Native community and person.
Francis made his remarks near the sites of two former schools in Maskwacis, Alberta, during the first event of a one-week tour in Canada that he called a “pilgrimage of penitence.”
Roughly 130 such facilities were gruesome centres of sexual, mental and physical abuse, forced assimilation and cultural devastation for over a century. Thousands died. The schools separated children from parents, erased languages and used Christianity as a weapon to break Indigenous cultures and communities.
Grief Sucks But Hope Again: A Memoir of Loss and Pain: Amazon.co.uk: Pongo, Brill: 9781782229346: Books
The pontiff’s apology fulfilled a critical demand of many survivors, who have long called on the Catholic Church to take responsibility for its role in running the abusive institutions.
From the 1880s through the 1990s, Canada forcibly removed at least 150,000 Indigenous children from their homes and sent them t o the schools. Catholic orders, which have only recently begun to open their archives, were responsible for running 60 percent to 70 percent of the schools.
Francis is a critic of proselytizing and colonialism. He said he was “deeply sorry” — a remark that prompted applause and approving shouts — for the ways in which “many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples.”
Francis had previously apologized for the brutal treatment of Indigenous children in Canada’s residential schools, which were mostly run by the Catholic Church. However, Monday’s event was the first time that he had done so on Canadian soil while speaking in front of survivors.
While this may have been a welcome apology in North America much remains to be seen with regards Africa. Similar or even worse atrocities, the distraction of cultures and eradication of traditional norms and beliefs were brought about through the Catholic Church in most parts of Africa south of the Sahara.