QUEBEC CITY — On Friday, Pope Francis attacked Catholic missionaries who “supported oppressive and unjust policies” against Indigenous peoples and vowed to seek truth and healing as he completed his pilgrimage to Canada by meeting Indigenous delegations and visiting Inuit territory in the far north of Nunavut.
François welcomed residential school survivors from Eastern Canada to the Archbishop’s residence in Quebec City to reiterate his apologies for the abuses they suffered in Canada’s residential school system. From the late 1800s to the 1970s, more than 150,000 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools to cut them off from their culture and assimilate them into Canadian Christian society.
The Canadian government has said physical and sexual abuse is endemic in schools, and Francis on Thursday asked forgiveness for the “evil” of sexual abuse by clergy against young people and vulnerable people, promising an “irreversible commitment” to prevent this from happening again.
Francis hopes his apology tour of Canada will help the Catholic Church reconcile with Indigenous peoples, and he has vowed to continue on the path of healing to atone for the past. His apology received a mixed response, with some school survivors welcoming it and others saying there is still a long way to go to right the wrongs of the past and achieve justice today.
“I have come in a spirit of penance, to express my deep pain at the wrong done to you by many Catholics who have supported oppressive and unjust policies towards you,” Francis told delegations in Quebec. “I have come as a pilgrim, despite my physical limitations, to take new steps with you and for you.
Francis, who was forced to use a wheelchair this trip due to ligament pain in his knee, said he hoped to make progress in finding the truth “so that healing and reconciliation processes can take place. carry on and that the seeds of hope may continue”. be sown for future generations – indigenous and non-indigenous – who wish to live together, in harmony, as brothers and sisters”.
Later Friday, Francis brought this message to Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, a vast territory straddling the Arctic Circle. This is the farthest north the Argentine pope has travelled.
Nunavut is about the size of Alaska and California combined, with a majority Inuit population of around 40,000. The capital has a population of 7,500, about half of whom are Inuit.
Francis was to meet residential school survivors at an elementary school in Iqaluit, then address Inuit youth and elders in his final event of the trip, aimed at delivering a message of hope for the future.
The Inuit community is asking for the Vatican’s help to extradite an Oblate priest, the Reverend Joannes Rivoire, who ministered to Inuit communities until his departure in the 1990s and his return to France. Canadian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 1998 on charges of multiple counts of sexual abuse, but it was never served.
The Canadian government said this week that Canada had asked France to extradite Rivoire, but did not say when and did not provide further details.
Reaction to Francis’ visit was mixed, with even the Canadian government saying its apology didn’t go far enough in accepting blame for the institutional role played by the Catholic Church in supporting school policy.
Some school survivors accepted his apology as genuine and helpful to their trauma healing process. Others found he was still missing, furious that it took the discovery of alleged unmarked graves outside some boarding schools for the pope to apologize after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada in 2015 specifically called for a papal apology to be made on Canadian soil.
Still others called on the church to do more, including providing additional information about the fate of children who never returned from school and repudiating 15th-century papal bulls that informed the so -so-called “doctrine of discovery” that legitimized colonial-era seizure. native lands with the aim of spreading Christianity.
“There were omissions in Pope Francis’ apology. No mention of Catholic Church role ownership, only Christians,” residential school survivor Evelyn Korkmaz posted on Facebook. “No mention of the release of boarding school documents. No mention of revoking the Doctrine of Discovery. No mention of changing rules or policies to help clergy survivors seek justice against their clergy predators. More action is needed.
It is unlikely that the Vatican itself has records regarding the fate of indigenous children who died in schools, although it does have records of all priests who faced canonical sanctions after 2001, and possibly some before that date. If the records exist, they would likely be in the archives of individual religious orders, including the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, which operated 48 of the 139 Christian boarding schools.
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