Pope Francis apologizes again as Canada visit ends in Nunavut

Disclaimer: The story below contains details about residential schools that may be upsetting. The Crisis Line for Residential School Survivors and Families of Canada is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.

Pope Francis has once again apologized for ‘evil’ perpetrated by members of the Catholic Church in residential schools, as he wraps up a six-day ‘penitential trip’ to Canada that sparked backlash mixed.

The pope traveled to Iqaluit, capital of the northern territory of Nunavut, on Friday to meet privately with residential school survivors and attend a public event before returning to Rome.

He shook hands with members of an indigenous delegation who were there to welcome him as he arrived in the city, home to around 7,700 people, and was greeted with applause as the event began, which began with traditional Inuit songs and dances.

“Not long ago, I was listening to several of you who were residential school students. I thank you for having the courage to tell your stories and share your great suffering, which I could not imagine,” Pope Francis told the crowd.

“It has only renewed in me the indignation and shame that I have felt for months…I want to tell you how sorry I am and ask forgiveness for the evil perpetrated by many Catholics who, in these schools, have contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation and emancipation.

Earlier this week, the Pope apologized for the first time in Canada for residential schools, the abuse-ridden establishments of forced assimilation that more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend for decades between the end 1800s and 1990s.

“I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against Indigenous peoples,” he said at an event Monday in Maskwacis, near Edmonton in the western province of Alberta, calling the effects institutions of “catastrophic”.

The Catholic Church ran the majority of the 139 federally mandated residential schools operating across Canada, which a 2015 commission of inquiry determined was “cultural genocide.”

For decades, Indigenous leaders have called on the church to apologize for its role in the residential school system, and the papal apology delivered this week was welcomed by some survivors as an important step on the road to healing.

Others have called on Pope Francis to go further and recognize the institutional role of the Catholic Church in the wrongs committed in residential schools, not just to apologize for the actions of Church members.

“Despite this historic apology, the Holy Father’s statement left a deep hole in recognizing the Church’s full role in the residential school system, blaming individual members of the Church,” said Murray Sinclair, l former chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), said in a statement this week.

“It is important to emphasize that the Church was not merely an agent of the state, nor merely a participant in government policy, but was one of the principal co-authors of the darker chapters of the history of this country,” Sinclair said.

A person holds a protest sign urging the Pope to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery during the event in Iqaluit, Nunavut on July 29, 2022 [Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters]

Indigenous leaders and community advocates have also urged Pope Francis to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery, a concept laid out in 15th-century papal bulls that declared European colonialists could claim any territory not yet “discovered” by the Christians.

The papal bulls played a key role in the European conquest of the Americas, and their effects are still felt today by the indigenous peoples of the region.

“These papal decrees became the basis for the legal possession of all the lands in North America, which we call Turtle Island. It remains entrenched in the constitutional, legislative and legal systems of Canada and the United States,” the Haudenosaunee Foreign Relations Committee said in a statement. statement Wednesday.

“Apologies to Indigenous peoples without action are just empty words. The Vatican must revoke these papal bulls and defend the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands in courts, legislatures and elsewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, a major demand from Inuit communities in Nunavut was the extradition from France of a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing children in the Northern Territory, where he was based between the 1960s and 1990s.

Canadian media reported this week that the Department of Justice said it had made an extradition request for Johannes Rivoire. He did not provide further details.


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