Canada Finds Pope's Apology Inadequate

Trudeau and Indigenous survivors note that Francis didn't mention sexual abuse in schools
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 27, 2022 7:05 PM CDT
Pope's Apology Disappoints Canada
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right and Governor-General Mary Simon accompany Pope Francis on his visit to the Citadelle de Quebec on Wednesday in Quebec City.   (AP Photo/John Locher)

The Canadian government made clear Wednesday that Pope Francis' apology to Indigenous peoples for abuses in the country's church-run residential schools didn't go far enough, suggesting that reconciliation over the fraught history is still very much a work in progress. The official government reaction came as Francis arrived in Quebec City for meetings with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor-General Mary Simon, the AP reports. The government's criticisms echo those of survivors and concern Francis' omission of any reference to the sexual abuse suffered by Indigenous children in the schools, as well as his refusal to name the Catholic Church as an institution bearing any responsibility.

Francis has said he is on a "penitential pilgrimage" to atone for the church's role in the residential school system, in which generations of Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and forced to attend church-run, government-funded boarding schools to assimilate them into Christian, Canadian society. The Canadian government has said physical and sexual abuse were rampant. Francis on Monday apologized for the "evil" of church personnel in the schools and the "catastrophic" effect of the schools on Indigenous families. In a speech before government authorities Wednesday, Francis apologized anew and blasted the school system as "deplorable." He asked forgiveness "for the wrongs done by so many Christians to Indigenous peoples" as well as "local Catholic institutions." But Francis also noted that the school system was "promoted by the governmental authorities at the time" as part of a policy in which "local Catholic institutions had a part."

Trudeau, a Catholic whose father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister while the last residential schools were in operation, insisted that the Catholic Church as an institution bore blame and needed to do more to atone. Speaking before Francis, he noted that Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 had called for a papal apology to be delivered on Canadian soil—"apologies for the role that the Roman Catholic Church, as an institution, played in the mistreatment on the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse that Indigenous children suffered in residential schools run by the church." The Canadian government has apologized for its role. Trudeau implied that much more needed to be done by the church and that while Francis' visit had "an enormous impact" on survivors, it was but a first step. Before Francis arrived in Quebec City, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said the "gaps" in Francis' apology could not be ignored.

(Read more Pope Francis stories.)

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