Pope Francis has apologized for the unimaginable abuses committed by Catholic priests for decades in Canada at residential schools.
“For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask the Lord’s forgiveness,” the pope said, after a week of talks with various delegations who brought their grievances to the pontiff. “And I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am very saddened. And I join the Canadian bishops in apologizing.
The meetings took place after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves containing the remains of children at the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Nation residential schools in British Columbia. The school was run by the Catholic Church for decades and was finally closed in 1978, after families said Catholic clergy and educators had a policy of extinguishing indigenous culture and replacing it with the Catholicism.
The pope expressed sadness on behalf of the Catholic Church’s considerable problem with predatory pedophile priests, but he rarely went as far as he did on Friday in calling the priests “deplorable” and saying that he was both ashamed and outraged at the abuse.
The pope then doubled down on his promise to visit Canada, during an audience in Rome attended by dozens of members of the Métis, Inuit and First Nations communities who later performed for the pontiff. The delegations had hoped to come in 2020, but the pandemic derailed the plans.
In the 19th century, more than 150,000 children were taken from their homes and forcibly placed in boarding schools to be indoctrinated into Christianity in a practice that continued until the 1970s. Many were sexually abused and physically, often because they spoke their native language, and those who died were buried on school grounds, often without informing parents, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada which determined in 2015 , before the graves were found. , that the Catholic Church had committed “cultural genocide”.
“I ask God’s forgiveness, and I want to tell you with all my heart, I’m really sorry,” Francis said in Italian, without an interpreter for those present. At the end, the audience stood up and applauded.