Pope Francis criss-crossed Canada this week to deliver long overdue apology to Indigenous groups across the country for the decades of abuse and cultural destruction they suffered in residential schools run by the Catholic Church.
Penitential Pilgrimage of the Pontiff – Alberta to Quebec and stop at the far north of Nunavut before heading back to Rome on Saturday – stirred up a mix of emotions for the school survivors. Some hailed the Holy Father’s apology for the “harm” of church staff and the “catastrophic effect” of the school system. Still others say much more needs to be done to right past wrongs and seek justice.
A First Nations chief even presented Francis with a headdress, briefly placing the revered regalia on the pope’s head, drawing cheers from a crowd who had just heard him repent at the site of a former boarding school. But some indigenous people found the gesture incongruous with the transgressions Francis said he was sorry for in their homeland.
More than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were forced to attend government-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s. They were isolated from their homes and cultures in an effort to Christianize and assimilate them. mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior. Abuse was rampant.
This week, the Canadian government made it clear that the pontiff’s apology did not go far enough and the First Nations chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada called on Francis to fully assume the role of the Church in the system. school.
Just before the Pope celebrates Mass on Thursday, protesters unfurled a banner at the altar demanding that the papal decrees that underpin the so-called “Doctrine of Discovery” be cancelled. The doctrine and other theories were used to legitimize the seizure of Indigenous lands in colonial times and today form the basis of some property laws.
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