Pope Francis said on Sunday (6) that he was saddened by the discovery of the remains of at least 215 children at a former boarding school run by the Catholic Church for Indigenous children and adolescents in Canada.
The pontiff’s absence, however, did not meet expectations that, as head of the church, Francisco would issue a formal apology. Last Friday (4) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his call on the Vatican to take responsibility for its controversial role in running schools for indigenous peoples.
Addressing tourists and worshipers in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope urged Catholic religious leaders and Canadian politicians to “cooperate with determination” to shed light on the discovery of the bodies and seek reconciliation and healing. For him, the discovery of bodies “further increases the understanding of the pains and sufferings of the past” and is a call to reflection.
“These difficult times represent a strong call for all of us to move away from the colonizing model and also from current ideological colonizations, and to walk side by side on the path of dialogue, mutual respect and the recognition of cultural rights and values. of all peoples ”, declared the pontiff, before inviting the faithful to pray in silence for the victims and their families.
On May 28, an Indigenous community in British Columbia, a province in western Canada, announced that it had found, using underground radar, a mass grave containing the remains of 215 children on the grounds of one of the old boarding schools.
These institutions operated in the country between 1831 and 1996, with funding from the Canadian government and the administration of several Christian denominations, primarily the Catholic Church. The Kamloops school, where the bodies were found, was once Canada’s largest residential school, at its peak with 500 students. It was administered by Catholic rulers from 1890 to 1969, when it returned to federal government control until it closed in 1978.
About 150,000 children from different indigenous communities were forcibly separated from their families and distributed to hundreds of residential schools across the country, where they were prevented from maintaining their customs, studying the culture of indigenous peoples or even speaking. their mother tongue.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a group formed to investigate what was going on in these schools, called the system a “cultural genocide.” Reports indicate that children have been victims of violence, abuse, rape and malnutrition. The official estimate is at least 4,100 deaths.
Francisco, who became Pope 17 years after the last residential schools in Canada closed, has already apologized for the role of the Catholic Church in colonialism in the Americas. But, in general, he preferred to apologize directly during country visits and conversations with indigenous peoples.
In Bolivia, for example, in 2015, the Argentine Pope apologized for “the many sins committed against the indigenous people of America in the name of God”. On a visit to Canada in 2017, however, the expected recognition of the church’s responsibility in the treatment of Indigenous children did not materialize.
At the time, Trudeau claimed to have made this appeal to the pontiff. “I spoke to him about the importance for Canadians of moving towards true reconciliation with Indigenous peoples and I emphasized that he could help by asking for forgiveness.”
Last week, the Canadian Prime Minister was more adamant and said he was ready to take “stronger measures”, possibly legal action, if the Catholic Church does not “take responsibility” and does not make school administration documents and records public.
“As a Catholic, I am deeply disappointed with the stance the Catholic Church has taken today and in recent years,” Trudeau said, adding that more drastic measures against the Vatican would be a last resort. “Before we start suing the church, I am hopeful that religious leaders will understand that this is something they need to get involved in.”