Francis apologizes to indigenous Canadians for ‘assimilation’ boarding schools

Pope Francis asked for forgiveness this Monday (25) “for the harm that so many Christians have done to the indigenous people” during colonization and for the “cooperation” and “indifference” of the Catholic Church, during his visit to the city of Maskwacis, where one of the largest boarding schools in which the Canadian State organized the processes of “assimilation” of the children of native peoples.

“I would like to tell you with all my heart that I am deeply hurt: I apologize for the way in which, unfortunately, many Christians have adopted the colonialist mentality of the powers that oppressed indigenous peoples,” Francis said, sitting among the representatives of the heads of indigenous peoples and in front of more than 2 thousand people, among them many victims of these boarding schools.

The pontiff traveled to Canada at the invitation of indigenous peoples to apologize for the abuses perpetrated at boarding schools, many of them run by the Catholic Church, where around 150,000 children were taken from their families, while it is estimated that more than 4,000 died as a result. of abuse and disease, with most of them buried in mass graves without any identification.

“I come to your native lands to say personally that I am wounded, to implore God’s forgiveness, healing and reconciliation, to show my closeness, to pray with you and for you,” Francis said in Spanish, a request that the indigenous people greeted with gratitude. applause.

The pope also wished that his presence would serve to “work together, so that the sufferings of the past give way to a future of justice, healing and reconciliation”, before adding that this visit was not a point of arrival, but a point of departure. for this process.

Francis, who prayed in the cemetery where many of the indigenous children who died at the Ermineskin school are buried, explained that “it is necessary to remember how the policies of assimilation and disengagement, which also included the system of residential schools, were disastrous for the people of these lands.” .

“They ended up systematically marginalizing indigenous peoples,” he pointed out, describing how “through the residential school system, their languages ​​and cultures were denigrated and repressed; children suffered physical and verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse; were taken from their homes when they were small and this indelibly marked the relationship between parents and children, between grandparents and grandchildren”.

Francis also apologized, “in particular, for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities collaborated, also through indifference, in those projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation of the governments of the time.”

“I would like to repeat with shame and clarity: I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil that so many Christians have committed against indigenous peoples”, he reiterated.

Echoing some of the indigenous requests to the Catholic Church, the pope assured that this process of reconciliation will require “a serious search for the truth about the past and helping the survivors of residential schools to carry out healing processes”.

Representatives of the first nations, the Metis and the Unit asked the Catholic Church that those responsible for the schools be brought to justice, that the archives be opened for investigation, as well as that some works of art that belonged to them and are now in the Vatican Museums.

The pontiff also apologized for not being able to visit other schools, such as the one in Kamloops, where more than a hundred bodies of children were found last year, but assured that he knows “the suffering, trauma and challenges of indigenous peoples in all regions. from this country”.

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