EDMONTON, Canada ( Associated Press) – Thousands of indigenous people gathered on Monday in a small community in the Alberta prairie, the Maskavasis, to hear a long-awaited apology from Pope Francis for generations of abuse and cultural repression at Catholic boarding schools across Canada. .
Francis was scheduled to arrive mid-morning at the site of the former Erminskine Indian Residential School, now largely demolished. He also planned to visit the sites of the old school and the nearby cemetery before speaking in a large open area in front of school survivors, their families and other supporters.
Francis arrived in Edmonton on Sunday, where he was received by representatives of Canada’s three main indigenous groups – the First Nations, the Métis and the Inuit, along with church and political dignitaries. At the reception, Francis kissed the hand of the Reverend Alma Desjarlais of Frog Lake First Nations, a residential school survivor, a gesture of humility and respect that she had previously made when meeting Holocaust survivors. ,
The Pope spent the rest of Sunday resting in a seminary in Edmonton, Alberta’s capital.
The Canadian government has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse was widespread in government-funded Christian schools that operated from the 19th century to the 1970s. About 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to participate in an effort to protect them from influence. to their native homes, languages and cultures and to adapt them to the Christian society of Canada.
Francis’ six-day visit – which will also include other sites in Alberta, Quebec City and Iqaluit, Nunavut in the far north – comes after meetings held at the Vatican with First Nations delegations in the spring. , Metis and Inuit. Those meetings culminated on 1 April as a historic apology for the “reprehensible” abuses committed by some Catholic missionaries in boarding schools.