Pope Expresses Sorrow but Doesn't Apologize for Canadian Deaths

Remains of Indigenous children were found buried at church-run school
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 6, 2021 10:25 AM CDT
Pope Expresses Sorrow but Doesn't Apologize for Canadian Deaths
Pope Francis speaks to the faithful Sunday in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican from his studio window.   (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

Pope Francis on Sunday expressed sorrow over the discovery in Canada of the remains of 215 Indigenous students of church-run boarding schools but didn't offer the apology sought by the Canadian prime minister. Francis, in remarks to faithful in St. Peter's Square, called on political and church authorities to work to shed light on what he called "this sad affair" and to foster healing, the AP reports. Two days earlier, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was deeply disappointed that the Vatican hadn't offered an apology, and called on the church to take responsibility. From the 19th century until the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools, the majority of them run by Catholic missionary congregations, in a campaign to assimilate them into Canadian society. Ground-penetrating radar was used to confirm the remains of the children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia, last month. The school was operated by the Catholic Church between 1890 and 1969.

The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse was rampant in the schools, with students beaten for speaking their native languages. Francis' comments spoke of healing but not of apology. "I follow with sorrow the news that arrives from Canada about the upsetting discovery of the remains of 215 children," the pope said. "I join with the Catholic Church in Canada in expressing closeness to the Canadian people traumatized by the shocking news,'' Francis said, adding, "May the political and religious authorities continue to collaborate with determination to shed light on this sad affair and to commit to a path of healing." Trudeau on Friday blasted the church for being "silent," and called on it to formally apologize and to make amends for its prominent role in his nation's former system of church-run Indigenous boarding schools. He noted that when he met with Francis in 2017, he had asked him to "move forward on apologizing" and on making records available.

(More Canada stories.)

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