Pope apologizes in Canada for sexual abuse by priests

By Cristina Cabrejas

Quebec, Canada, Jul 28 (EFE).- Pope Francis said here Thursday that the Catholic Church in Canada has embarked on a new path after the devastation resulting from “the evil perpetrated by some of its sons and daughters.”

“I think in particular of the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, crimes that require firm action and an irreversible commitment,” he said during a prayer service at Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica-Cathedral.

On the fifth day of what he has described as a pilgrimage of penance for the Catholic Church’s involvement with Canada’s Indigenous residential school system, Francis offered yet another apology to “all of the victims.”

Some 150,000 children suffered all manner of abuses in the residential schools, which were intended to “assimilate” Indigenous youngsters, and at least 1,000 of the estimated 6,000 pupils who died in the institutions were buried in unmarked graves.

Speaking in Spanish, the 85-year-old Argentine pontiff said that the Christian community must never again allow itself to be “contaminated” by the notion that one culture is superior to another.

“The pain and the shame we feel must become an occasion for conversion: never again!” he said.

Francis pointed to St. François de Laval (1623-1708), the first Catholic bishop of Quebec who “battled all of those who degraded the Indigenous people, inducing them to consume alcohol to deceive them.”

While many in Canada, including among the Indigenous peoples, have welcomed the pope’s apologies, First Nations, Metis and Inuit leaders are not satisfied.

During a papal Mass early Thursday at the Shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre, a pilgrimage site near Quebec City, two activists held up a banner reading Rescind the Doctrine, referring to the doctrine of discovery, cited by 15th century popes in bulls declaring the land of Africa and the Americas subject to expropriation by Europeans “in the name of God.”

The office of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the premier “discussed the need to … address the Doctrine of Discovery” in his meeting with the pontiff on Wednesday.

On Thursday in Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre, Trudeau called on Pope Francis to return Canadian Indigenous artifacts in the holdings of the Vatican Museum and to open church archives to people investigating clerical sexual abuse.

The government and activists also pressed the pontiff on the case of the Rev. Johannes Rivoire, who is wanted in Canada on charges of sexually abusing Inuit children 47 years ago in Nunavut, where France will travel on Friday.

Rivoire is now living in Lyon, France. EFE ccg/dr

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