On Sunday, Pope Francis said he was deeply saddened The remains of 215 children have been discovered in a former Catholic school for indigenous students in Canada They called for respect for the rights and culture of indigenous peoples.
However, Francisco did not offer the direct apology some Canadians had requested. Two days ago, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Catholic Church should take responsibility for its role in running many schools.
Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing, Francis urged Canadian Catholic religious leaders and politicians to “collaborate insistently” to highlight discovery and seek reconciliation and healing. Francisco said he felt close to “the Canadian people who were shocked by the shocking news.”
Boarding schools operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run by various Christian denominations on behalf of the government. Most of it was run by the Catholic Church.
The discovery of children’s remains last month at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has reopened old wounds and sparked outrage in Canada over a lack of information and accountability.
“The sad discovery advances understanding of pain and suffering in the past,” Francisco said.
“These difficult times are a powerful reminder to all of us to distance ourselves from the colonial model (…) and walk hand in hand in dialogue and mutual respect in recognizing the cultural rights and values of all Canadians,” he said.
The boarding school system forcibly separated approximately 150,000 children from their homes. Many were mistreated, raped and malnourished in what the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide”.
“Let us commend the Lord for the souls of all the children killed in boarding schools across Canada and pray for the grief-stricken families and indigenous Canadian communities,” he said before asking the crowd to gather silently for prayer.
Francisco, who was elected pope 17 years after closing the last schools, has already apologized for the church’s role in colonialism in the Americas. But he preferred to apologize directly when visiting countries and talking to indigenous peoples. The Pope is not scheduled to visit Canada. While visiting Bolivia in 2015, Francisco apologized for “the many grave sins committed against the indigenous people of America in the name of God.”
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Raisa Kasulowsky)