Pope Francis apologized Monday for the Catholic Church’s cooperation with Canada’s “devastating” policy of Indigenous residential schools, saying the forced assimilation of Native peoples into Christian society destroyed their cultures, severed their families, and marginalized generations in ways still being felt today. “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” Francis said near the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School, now largely torn down, on lands of four Cree nations south of Edmonton, Alberta.
The long-awaited apology opened Francis’ weeklong “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada, which is meant to help the church on its path of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and help victims heal, per the AP. Francis’ words on Monday went beyond his earlier apology for the “deplorable” acts of missionaries and instead took responsibility for the church’s institutional cooperation with the “catastrophic” assimilation policy, which Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has said amounted to a “cultural genocide.”
“My late family members are not here with us anymore," said one of the hosts of the event, Chief Randy Ermineskin of the Ermineskin Cree Nation. “I know they’re with me, they’re listening, they’re watching.” The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the government-funded Christian schools that operated from the 19th century to the 1970s. Some 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes, Native languages and cultures, and assimilate them into Canada’s Christian society.
(Read more Pope Francis