Pope Finally Gives Apology for Canadian Indigenous Residential Schools

"I feel shame -- sorrow and shame," said Pope Francis on Friday, April 1st. The Catholic Church finally issued an official apology after years of muted response to calls from Canadian indigenous leaders.

"I feel shame -- sorrow and shame -- for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, in the abuses you suffered, and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture, and even your spiritual values," Francis said.

The pope was addressing a delegate of survivors to the Vatican. Leaders of the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities were also part of the delegation.

Multiple Canadian delegates had to meet with Vatican officials and the pope to express their demand for an apology before the Vatican finally issued an official statement.

In 2015, Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission declared that the residential school system was cultural genocide. The system operated from 1883 to 1996; Catholic institutions ran more than two-thirds of those residential schools.

New York Times reported that the commission claimed that "at least 4,100 students died while attending the schools, many from mistreatment or neglect, others from disease or accident." In most of those cases, the families were not notified.

At first, there were rumors of unmarked graves. Between 1974 to 2019, four mass graves were discovered, usually through archival and historical research.

The discovery of a mass grave in Kamloops, British Columbia, by ground-penetrating radar, heralded the discovery of dozens more.

A mass grave containing as many as 751 bodies was discovered in Saskatchewan. Cadmus Delorme, chief of the Cowessess First Nation, said, "this is not a mass gravesite; these are unmarked graves."

"For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God's forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry," Francis continued his prepared apology for the delegate.

The pope is scheduled to visit Canada and is expected to issue another apology. He said he intends to travel to Canada, where he "would be able better to express" his closeness.

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