“We recognize the serious abuses committed by some members of our Catholic community: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural and sexual,” said a statement released on Friday (local time). It is the most comprehensive statement by the Catholic Church on the topic that has been smoldering for months.
Suppression of language, culture and spirituality
In it, the bishops emphasize that many Catholic religious communities and dioceses have been involved in the boarding school system, which has led to the suppression of the languages, culture and spirituality of the indigenous people.
“Together with the Catholic institutions that were directly involved in the operation of the schools and have already apologized sincerely, we, the Catholic Bishops of Canada, express our deep regret and our unequivocal apologies,” the statement said at the end of the annual general assembly letter published by the Canadian Bishops’ Conference.
The bishops also announce that they will launch fundraisers across the country to support initiatives started by indigenous communities. In addition, they will work with those responsible in the Vatican and indigenous partners to examine the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada.
Indigenous leaders recently asked Pope Francis to apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church on Canadian soil. Some indigenous people are planning a trip to Rome in December to meet the Pope there.
More than 1,000 ancient graves discovered
Since the end of May, ground-penetrating radar has discovered more than 1,000 graves containing the remains of children on former boarding school properties in Canada. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it is estimated that more than 100,000 children of Indigenous mothers were placed in Canadian homes, often forcibly.
Many of the more than 130 institutions nationwide were operated by Catholic religious orders. They were supposed to introduce the children to “Christian civilization” on behalf of the state. Often they were not allowed to speak their mother tongue. An unknown number of children and young people were physically abused or sexually abused, and many died from infectious diseases.