Vatican City: Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his pain over the discovery in Canada of the remains of 215 Indigenous students of church-run residential schools and pressed religious and political authorities to shed light on “this sad affair.” But he didn’t offer the apology sought by the Canadian prime minister.
Francis, in remarks to faithful gathered in St Peter’s Square, also called on the authorities to foster healing but made no reference to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s insistence, two days earlier, that the Vatican apologise and take responsibility.
From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools, the majority of them run by Roman Catholic missionary congregations, in a campaign to assimilate them into Canadian society.
Pope Francis speaks from the window of his studio overlooking St Peter’s Square at The Vatican.Credit:
Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation in British Columbia has said her nation wants a public apology from the Catholic Church. The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which ran nearly half of Canada’s residential schools, has yet to release any records about the Kamloops school, she also said.
Francis’ comments spoke of healing but not of apology.
“May the political and religious authorities continue to collaborate with determination to shed light on this sad affair and to commit humbly to a path of reconciliation and healing,” Francis said.
“These difficult moments represent a strong call to distance ourselves from the colonial model and from today’s ideological colonizing and to walk side by side in dialogue, in mutual respect and in recognising rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada,” the pope said.
“Let’s entrust to the Lord the souls of all those children, deceased in the residential schools of Canada,″ the pontiff added. “Let us pray for the families and for the indigenous Canadian communities overcome by sorrow.” Francis then asked the public in the square below his window to join him in silent prayer.
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