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Pope apologizes for abuses of Indigenous children at Canada schools as part of ‘penitential pilgrimage’

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Pope Francis spoke before Indigenous people outside of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, on Monday, apologizing on behalf of the Catholic Church for oppression and “forced assimilation,” and poor treatment of children at religious residential schools.

More than 150,000 Indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools between 1881 and 1996. A number of children were allegedly starved, beaten and sexually abused.

“I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,” Pope Francis said.

Canadian leaders have been aware of the many children dying at the schools since 1907, but the incidents garnered more attention following last year’s discoveries of what appeared to be unmarked graves at or near former residential schools.

POPE FRANCIS TRAVELS TO CANADA TO APOLOGIZE FOR CATHOLIC-RUN SCHOOLS’ INDIGENOUS ABUSE

Pope Francis kisses hand of Canadian Indigenous woman as he arrives at Edmonton's International airport, Canada, Sunday, July 24, 2022. Pope Francis begins a weeklong trip to Canada on Sunday to apologize to Indigenous peoples for the abuses committed by Catholic missionaries in the country's notorious residential schools. (G3 Box News Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Pope Francis kisses hand of Canadian Indigenous woman as he arrives at Edmonton’s International airport, Canada, Sunday, July 24, 2022. Pope Francis begins a weeklong trip to Canada on Sunday to apologize to Indigenous peoples for the abuses committed by Catholic missionaries in the country’s notorious residential schools. (G3 Box News Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
(The G3 Box News)

Canada’s Catholic Church says its dioceses and religious orders have provided more than $50 million in cash and in-kind contributions, and hope to add $30 million more over the next five years.

The Pope called his trip a “penitential pilgrimage.”

POPE FRANCIS WARNS GERMAN BISHOPS: CHANGING TEACHINGS IS ‘NOT LAWFUL,’ CAUSES CHURCHES TO ‘ROT AND DIE’

Pope Francis delivers his speech as he meets the Indigenous communities, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit, at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church in Maskwacis, near Edmonton, Canada, Monday, July 25, 2022. Pope Francis begins a

Pope Francis delivers his speech as he meets the Indigenous communities, including First Nations, Metis and Inuit, at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows Catholic Church in Maskwacis, near Edmonton, Canada, Monday, July 25, 2022. Pope Francis begins a “penitential” visit to Canada to beg forgiveness from survivors of the country’s residential schools, where Catholic missionaries contributed to the “cultural genocide” of generations of Indigenous children by trying to stamp out their languages, cultures and traditions. Francis set to visit the cemetery at the former residential school in Maskwacis. (G3 Box News Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

“I have come to your native lands to tell you in person of my sorrow. To implore God’s forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. To express my closeness and to pray with you and for you,” he said.

Pope Francis leaves with Indigenous peoples after praying in a cemetery at the former residential school in Maskwacis, near Edmonton, Canada, Monday, July 25, 2022. Pope Francis begins a

Pope Francis leaves with Indigenous peoples after praying in a cemetery at the former residential school in Maskwacis, near Edmonton, Canada, Monday, July 25, 2022. Pope Francis begins a “penitential” visit to Canada to beg forgiveness from survivors of the country’s residential schools, where Catholic missionaries contributed to the “cultural genocide” of generations of Indigenous children by trying to stamp out their languages, cultures and traditions. Francis set to visit the cemetery at the former residential school in Maskwacis. (G3 Box News Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
(The G3 Box News)

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The Pope’s address took place on the grounds that once was home to the Ermineskin Indian Residential School but now has a school run by four local Cree nations.

Thousands of the tickets were reserved for Indigenous survivors of the residential schools. Indigenous leaders in Treaty 6, the location Francis is visiting in Alberta, have said they were overwhelmed with requests from survivors who wish to attend the event.

G3 Box News Landon Mion, The G3 Box News and Reuters contributed to this report.

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