Pope expresses regret for "evil" committed against Indigenous Canadian
Pope addresses a crowd of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people in Maskwacis, Alberta, and apologizes for "cultural destruction" committed by the Catholic church against their peoples.
Pope Francis, arrived in Canada on Sunday, and apologized on Monday for the "evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples" of Canada, and regretted the Church's involvement in "cultural destruction," as he put it.
In front of a crowd of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people in Maskwacis, Alberta, the pope said "I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation."
The pontiff added in his statement that "The place where we are gathered renews within me the deep sense of pain and remorse that I have felt in these past months."
The Pope arrives in Canada
Pope Francis landed in Canada on Sunday, July 25, and was scheduled to personally apologize to Indigenous victims of abuse sustained over many years at Catholic Church-run residential schools.
Shortly after 17:00GMT, the leader of the 1.3 billion Catholics in the world touched down at Edmonton International Airport.
He was greeted at the airport by Indigenous leaders, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Mary Simon, who served as Canada's first governor-general of Indigenous descent.
Before the brief ritual came to a close, Pope Francis accepted welcoming presents from Indigenous chiefs and spoke with each one while shaking or kissing their hands.
For the Pope, the 10-hour flight from Rome to Edmonton is the longest since 2019. The Pope has been suffering from knee pain and had to postpone an Africa trip as a result, but he insisted on his trip to Canada. During the flight, he told journalists that they "must be aware that this is a penitential journey."
An AFP reporter who was with him on Sunday said that the Pope was in a wheelchair on the tarmac in Edmonton and used a lifting platform to board the aircraft.
The visit to Canada is a significant step forward in the Pope’s efforts to address the global scandal of clerical sexual abuse of children and decades of cover-up.
From the late 1800s to the 1990s, approximately 150,000 First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children were enrolled in 139 residential schools across Canada as part of a government policy of forced assimilation.
They were separated from their families, language, and culture for months or years, and many were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers.