Pope apologizes for ‘deplorable evil’ of Indigenous abuse in Canadian Catholic residential schools

The Pope apologized and promised a “serious investigation” into what happened in a speech at a meeting with indigenous peoples in Edmonton, Alberta, on Monday.

Indigenous leaders have long called for a papal apology for the decades-long harm done to indigenous children, who suffered abuse and the erasure of indigenous culture in the country’s residential schools.

“I apologize, in particular, for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities cooperated, especially with their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential centers,” said the pontiff.

Last year, hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.

And Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has reported that more than 4,000 Indigenous children died from neglect or abuse in residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church.

“Faced with this deplorable evil, the Church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children,” said the Pope. “I humbly ask for forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against indigenous peoples.”

And the pontiff stressed that his apology is only the first step in correcting these mistakes.

“An important part of this process will be to conduct a serious investigation into the facts of what happened in the past and help residential school survivors experience healing from the traumas they suffered,” he said.

The Pope will also travel to Quebec and Iqaluit, capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, during the trip. Two Canadian cardinals will accompany him throughout his visit, Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal Michael Czerny.

Francis, 85, had a trip to Africa earlier this month canceled due to knee problems.

CNN’s Rob Picheta, Livia Borghese and Cecilia Armstrong contributed to this report.

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