Pope in Canada to apologise for abuse of Indigenous children in church schools

The Guardian [London, England]

July 24, 2022

By Reuters

‘This is a trip of penance,’ says Pope Francis, ahead of mass to be held during five-day trip

Pope Francis landed in Canada on Sunday to kick off a five-day trip that will centre around his apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the abuse that Indigenous children endured at mostly church-run residential schools.

“This is a trip of penance. Let’s say that is its spirit,” the pope told reporters after his flight took off from Rome.

He touched down in Edmonton in the western province of Alberta, where he will visit a former residential school and meet with Indigenous people on Monday. He is also visiting Quebec City and Iqaluit, the capital of the territory of Nunavut. He will depart on Friday.

The pope said he yearned to visit Ukraine in his efforts to try to bring an end to the five-month-old war that he has repeatedly decried. “I have a great desire to go to Kyiv,” the pope said when asked about a possible future trip to Ukraine.

Earlier this month, the pontiff told Reuters that he hoped to be able to go to Moscow and Kyiv soon after his trip to Canada.

The first full day of his Canadian tour will be dedicated to Indigenous people and the apology, with a mass to be held in Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium on Tuesday.

Between 1881 and 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools. Many children were starved, beaten and sexually abused in a system that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide”.

While Canada’s leaders have known about high numbers of children dying at the schools since 1907, the issue was thrust to the fore with the discovery of suspected unmarked graves at or near former residential school sites last year.

In response to pressure stemming from those discoveries, the pope apologised for the Catholic church’s role in the schools earlier this year during a visit by Indigenous delegates to the Vatican.

Now he is coming to apologise on Canadian soil. But survivors and Indigenous leaders have told Reuters they want more.

Many have called for financial compensation, the return of Indigenous artefacts, the release of school records, support for extraditing an accused abuser, and the rescinding of a 15th-century doctrine justifying colonial dispossession of Indigenous people in the form of a papal bull, or edict.