QUEBEC CITY – The Canadian government made the announcement on Wednesday Pope Francis‘ Apologies to indigenous peoples for abuses in the country’s church-run residential schools have not gone far enough, suggesting that reconciliation over a tumultuous history is still a work in progress.
The government’s official response came as Francis arrived in Quebec City on the second leg of his week-long visit to Canada to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon at his Quebec residence, the Citadelle Castle.
The government’s criticism echoes that of some survivors, and concerns Francis’s failure to make any reference to the sexual abuse of indigenous children in schools, as well as his unwillingness to name the Catholic Church as an institution responsible.
Francis said he was on a “penance” to pay for the church’s role in the residential school system, where generations of indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and forced to attend church-run, government-funded boarding schools for assimilation. converted them into a Christian, Canadian society. The Canadian government says physical and sexual violence is rampant in schools, with students being beaten for speaking their mother tongue.
On Monday, Francis apologized for the “wickedness” of church staff working in schools and the “catastrophic” impact of the school system on local families. In a speech to government officials on Wednesday, Francis again apologized and called the school system “deplorable.”
Francis noted that the school system was “promoted by government authorities at the time” as part of a policy of assimilation and enfranchisement. However, responding to criticism, he added that “local Catholic institutions have a share” in the implementation of this policy.
Indigenous peoples have long demanded that the pope be held accountable not only for abuses committed by individual Catholic priests and religious orders, but also for the Catholic Church’s institutional support for assimilationist policies and the 15th-century papal religious justification for European colonial expansion to spread Christianity. does.
More than 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada were removed from their homes from the 19th century to the 1970s and placed in schools to isolate them from the influence of their families and culture.
Trudeau, a Catholic whose father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister when the last residential schools operated, insisted that the Catholic Church as an institution was at fault and must do more to atone.
Speaking before Francis, he noted that in 2015 Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for an apology from the pope on Canadian soil, but that Francis’ visit “would not have been possible without the courage and persistence” of First Nations survivors. Inuit and Métis who visited the Vatican last spring filed their case for an apology.
“We apologize for the role that the Roman Catholic Church as an institution has played in the abuse of spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse suffered by Indigenous children in church-run residential schools,” Trudeau said.
The Canadian government has apologized for its role in the school’s legacy. Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology for residential schools in Parliament in 2008, calling them a sad chapter in Canadian history and saying the policy of forced assimilation had done great harm.
As part of the settlement of a lawsuit involving the government, churches and some 90,000 student survivors, Canada paid billions of dollars in reparations that were transferred to indigenous communities. The Catholic Church, for its part, has paid more than $50 million and plans to add another $30 million over the next five years.
Trudeau said the church needed to do more, and that while Francis’ visit had a “huge impact” on survivors, it was the first step.
Aside from the content of his speech, Trudeau’s remarks broke with customary protocol for papal visits. According to diplomatic protocol, only Simon was supposed to appear before the Pope as the representative of the state. Inuk Simon, the first indigenous person to hold the largely ceremonial position of governor-general, appealed to Francis.
But the Vatican said Trudeau’s office had asked the prime minister to be allowed to deliver some introductory remarks, a request that came days before Francis left Rome but after the pope’s itinerary had been finalized and printed.
A senior Canadian government official said Trudeau usually makes statements during visits by foreign leaders and it was important for Francis to address Canadians during his visit “especially given the importance of the issue.” But it was added at the last minute.
Before Francis arrived in Quebec City, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Mark Miller said the “gaps” in Francis’ apology could not be ignored.
Miller, echoing the criticism of some school survivors, noted that Francis did not list sexual abuse in the list of abuses experienced by Indigenous children in schools. On Monday, Francis instead listed physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse. In addition, Miller noted that Francis spoke on Monday about the “evil” committed by individual Christians, “but not the Catholic Church as an institution.”
Phil Fontaine, a survivor of sexual abuse in schools and a former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said Wednesday that the additional reference to “local Catholic institutions” went beyond Francis’ original apology and was the closest thing to an apology. For the entire church in Canada.
“It reflects the reality that the Catholic Church in Canada is not an institution. It consists of approximately 73 different legal entities, all of which were defendants in the lawsuits,” Fontaine said in a statement.
Francis’ visit sparked mixed emotions among survivors and their relatives, as well as local leaders and community members. Some welcomed his apology as sincere and helpful in helping them heal. Others said it was just the first step in a long reconciliation process. Others said it did not go far enough in taking responsibility for centuries of institutional wrongdoing.
Francis himself admitted that the wounds will take time to heal and that his visit and apology were the first steps. On Wednesday, he pledged himself and his local Canadian church to “move forward in a journey of brotherhood and patience with all Canadians in accordance with truth and justice, working for healing and reconciliation, and always inspired by hope.”
“It is our desire to renew the relationship between the Church and Canada’s indigenous peoples, a relationship marked by both love that bears beautiful fruit and tragic, deep wounds that we are committed to understanding and healing,” he said.
But he did not list specific actions the Holy See was willing to take.
Trudeau also said that the visit is the beginning and reconciliation is everyone’s duty. “It is our responsibility to see our differences not as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to learn, understand each other better, and take action.”
Associated Press religion news is supported through AP’s partnership with The Conversation US, with funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc. AP is solely responsible for this content.
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