Edmonton, Canada ( Associated Press) – Pope Francis was preparing for his first major mass celebration in Canada to pay tribute to grandparents on Tuesday, a day after he criticized the Catholic Church in separating indigenous families for generations. offered a historic apology for the role. In Canada’s boarding school system, what he called “catastrophic” damage.
Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, to mark the Feast of St. Anne, a statue of Jesus’ grandmother and special reverence for Canadian Catholics. Later on Tuesday, Francis will continue his tribute to grandparents by leading a prayer service at one of North America’s most popular pilgrimage sites, Lac Stay Anne, considered a place of healing.
Francis has long praised the role of grandmothers in giving confidence to younger generations, citing her own experience with her grandmother, Rosa, who grew up in Buenos Aires. For several months, Francisco has given weekly sermons on the need to cherish the wisdom of grandparents and not dismiss them as part of today’s “waste culture”.
Francis’ message resonates even more in Canada, as Indigenous families have been torn apart by the Church’s government’s policy of forced reunification of indigenous peoples.
More than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were expelled from their homes and forced to attend government-funded Christian schools from the 19th century to the 1970s to isolate them from the influence of their families and culture. The goal was to Christianize them and assimilate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.
In the first event of his week-long “atonement pilgrimage”, the pope traveled to the land of the four Cree nations on Monday to pray at a cemetery and then offered a long-sought apology. Francis lambasted the boarding school policy as a “catastrophic mistake”, causing “catastrophic” harm to indigenous peoples and their families.
“I humbly apologize for the evil that so many Christians have done against the indigenous people,” Francis declared on the site of a former boarding school in Maskavasis. The Pope promised more research and measures to promote healing.
Reaction to his visit and words was mixed, with some victims staying away and criticizing indigenous leaders’ decision to present Francis with feathered headdresses, a sign of respect. Others accepted his apology as genuine and his visit drew attention to the horrors of the boarding school system.
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