Pope Francis Expresses Disappointment However No Apology for Indigenous Faculty Deaths in Canada: NPR
Pope Francis speaks on Sunday from the window of his studio with a view of St. Peter’s Square. Francis expressed his grief over the treatment of Canada’s indigenous people but made no apologies. Domenico Stinellis / AP Hide the caption
Domenico Stinellis / AP
Domenico Stinellis / AP
Pope Francis expressed his grief on Sunday over the gruesome discovery of a mass grave in Canada where the remains of hundreds of indigenous children lie. The remains were found in a boarding school for Indigenous Canadians run by Catholic clergymen.
“I join the Canadian bishops and the entire Catholic Church in Canada to express my closeness to the Canadian people who have been traumatized by this shocking news,” Francis said, according to a translation of prepared remarks in front of an audience in St. Peter’s Square. “This sad discovery raises awareness of the pain and suffering of the past.”
The comments come about a week after the First Nation of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc in British Columbia announced that the remains of 215 children were found on the grounds of the former boarding school. Indigenous Canadians had known for years that some children never returned from schools, but this is the first time a major burial site has been discovered.
Francis urged the political and religious authorities in Canada to continue to work together “to shed light on this sad event and to humbly work for a path of healing and reconciliation.” It is important “to turn away from the colonial model and also from the ideological colonizations of the present and to walk side by side in dialogue, mutual respect and the recognition of the rights and cultural values of all of Canada’s daughters and sons”. . ”
“We commend to the Lord the souls of all the children who died in residential schools in Canada, and we pray for the grieving indigenous families and communities of Canada,” added Francis.
Despite expressing his grief on Sunday, Francis never specifically apologized for the Church’s role in the forced re-education of more than 150,000 children dragged from their homes over 150 years in the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of the children were forced to become Christians, were not allowed to speak their mother tongue and were often abused. In 2015 a national commission condemned the treatment as “cultural genocide”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday he was “deeply disappointed” that the Catholic Church had not formally apologized for its role in church boarding schools. Trudeau said that during a trip to the Vatican in 2017 he asked Francis directly “to go forward in apologizing, in asking for forgiveness, in making amends”. But Trudeau said, “we are still seeing opposition from the church.”
Head of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Rosanne Casimir, has also called for a public apology from the church.
Francis’ comments are “a little better than nothing, but marginal,” said Veldon Coburn, professor of indigenous studies at the University of Ottawa. “They bypass the words ‘I’m sorry’ like it’s painful for them, and really, getting that out of them feels like it’s pulling your teeth.”
“Saying like ‘we will go hand in hand’ said the popes and the council of Canadian bishops a few years ago,” Coburn told NPR. He suggested that the Catholic Church follow the example of the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada, both of which formally apologized decades ago for their involvement in boarding schools for indigenous peoples.
“Just apologize and carry on,” Coburn said. “Because it seems really painful now, and shuddering and awkward.”
Although the Pope did not offer an apology on behalf of the Church, other Catholic clergy did. On Sunday, Cardinal Thomas Collins of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto apologized during mass.
“I think we as Christians must particularly regret and regret that we participated in this particular system,” he said, according to the Toronto Sun. “It was a government program that essentially took young children from their families.
“I don’t know what the religious groups or the Catholic groups thought,” Collins continued. “They probably wanted to advance their mission. But to participate in something that took children away from their families? All we stand for are families. I’m just so sorry it happened.”