Vatican City ( Associated Press) — Pope Francis embarked on a tense visit to Canada on Sunday to apologize to indigenous peoples for abuses by missionaries at Catholic boarding schools that have reconciled local communities and traumatized them through generations. An important step in the Church’s efforts in healing. ,
Francis planned to first arrive in Edmonton, Alberta, where he would be greeted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary May Simon, an Inuk who is Canada’s first indigenous governor-general. The pope had no official schedule scheduled for Sunday, which would give him time to rest before his Monday meeting with survivors near a former residential school in Maskavasis, where he is expected to apologize.
On the pope’s plane, Francis told reporters it was an “atonement visit” and urged special prayers for the elderly and grandparents.
However, Indigenous groups are seeking more than just words and access to church archives to learn the fate of residential schoolchildren who never returned home. They also want punishment for abusers, financial compensation for victims, and the return of indigenous artifacts held by the Vatican museums.
“This apology validates our experiences and creates an opportunity for the Church to improve relations with indigenous peoples around the world,” said George Arcand Jr., Grand Chief of the Treaty Six Confederacy. But he insisted: “It does not end here, much remains to be done. It is a beginning”.
The week-long trip will take the Pope to Edmonton, Quebec and finally to Iqaluit, Nunavut in the far north. The visit follows Francis’ meetings with First Nations, Métis and Inuit delegations at the Vatican in the spring. Those meetings culminated on 1 April with a historic apology for the “disappointing” abuses committed by some Catholic missionaries in residential schools.
The Canadian government acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse was rampant in state-funded Christian schools that operated from the 19th century to the 1970s. Some 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and forced to take part in the isolation effort. The influence of their native homes, languages and cultures and their assimilation into Canadian Christian society.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for a papal pardon on Canadian soil in 2015, but the remains of some 200 children at Kamloops boarding school in British Columbia were not discovered until 2021 that the Vatican sought to honor the request. Was.
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