.
.
.
.

Pope Francis urges reconciliation, healing over Canada school discovery

Published: Updated:

Pope Francis said on Sunday that he was pained by the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former Catholic school for indigenous students in Canada and called for respect of the rights and culture of native peoples.

He urged Canadian political and Catholic religious leaders to “cooperate with determination” to shed light on the finding and to seek reconciliation and healing. Francis said he felt close to “the Canadian people, who have been traumatized by the shocking news”.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square, he stopped short, however, of the direct apology that many Canadians had demanded from the Catholic Church for its role in the residential schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run by a number of Christian denominations on behalf of the government.

The discovery last month of the remains of the children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has reopened old wounds and is fueling
outrage in Canada about the lack of information and accountability.

The residential school system forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide”.

Francis spoke two days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running many of the schools.

The residential schools operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run by a number of Christian denominations on behalf of the government. Most were run by the Catholic Church.

The discovery last month of the remains of the children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has reopened old wounds and is fueling outrage in Canada about the lack of information and accountability.

“The sad discovery further increases the understanding of the pain and suffering of the past,” Francis said.

“These difficult moments represent a strong reminder for all of us to distance ourselves from the model of colonizer ... and to walk side by side in dialogue and in mutual respect in the recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the sons and daughters of Canada,” he said.

The residential school system forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide”.

“Let us commend to the Lord the souls of all of the dead children in the residential schools of Canada and let us pray for the families and the native communities of Canada shattered by pain,” he said before asking the crowd to join him in silent prayer.

Francis, who was elected pope 17 years after the last schools was closed, has already apologized for the Church’s role in colonialism in the Americas.

But he has mostly chosen to make direct apologies while visiting countries and talking to native peoples. No papal visit to Canada is scheduled.

Visiting Bolivia in 2015, Francis apologized for the “many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God”.

Read more:

More than 200 bodies found at Indigenous school in Canada

Rome artist sues Vatican over issuance of street art stamp

Pope to host July 1 summit with Lebanon’s Christian leaders