Maskwacis, Canada, Jul 25 (EFE).- Pope Francis on Monday formally apologized and asked for forgiveness to the indigenous community in Canada for the harm done by the Catholic church during the so-called “process of assimilation”.
“I ask forgiveness for the way in which, unfortunately, many Christians adopted the colonialist mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous peoples, (…) I am deeply sorry, from the bottom of my heart,” the pontiff told indigenous chiefs and some 2,000 people in Maskwacis.
Pope Francis is on what he has called a “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada in which he hopes to reconcile with the country’s indigenous community after the abuse committed to thousands of children in Catholic-run schools across the country.
Between the early 1880s and mid-1990s, over 150,000 indigenous children were sent to Cathonlic-run boarding schools across the country as part of the so-called “process of assimilation” in Canada.
The children were separated from their families, language and culture in what Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called a “cultural genocide”.
Many of the children were physically and sexually abused by teachers and headmasters and it has been estimated that over 4,000 children died from mistreatment and malnutrition.
“We want to walk together, to pray together and to work together so that the sufferings of the past can lead to a future of justice, healing and reconciliation,” Pope Francis said.
The pontiff continued to say that he felt “sorrow, indignation and shame” over the “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse” committed by the Catholic church and that although the memory of these children was “indeed painful, it urges us to work to ensure that every child is treated with love, honor and respect.”
“I would like to repeat, with shame but clarity: I humbly ask forgiveness for the evil that so many Christians committed against the indigenous peoples,” he repeated.
Pope Francis arrived in Canada on Sunday where he was greeted by Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau and lieutenant governor of Alberta, Salma Lakhani.
His trip includes visits to the provinces of Alberta, Quebec and the northern territory of Nunavut as well as a visit to one of the schools. He will be in Canada until Friday. EFE