Pope Francis: Pontiff says he is ‘deeply sorry’ to Canadian residential school survivors


    “I am deeply sorry,” the Pope said on the grounds of a former residential school in Maskwacis, near Edmonton.

    He said his apology is a first step, and that a “serious investigation” into abuses must occur to foster healing.

    The pontiff is in Canada to apologise for the Church’s role in schools meant to assimilate indigenous children.

    The government-funded schools were part of a policy meant to destroy indigenous cultures and languages.

    The papal apology was received by applause from survivors in the audience, some of whom travelled far to hear the Pope speak.

    Pope Francis expressed “sorrow, indignation and shame” for the actions of many members of the Roman Catholic Church, who ran and operated majority of residential schools in Canada.

    The 85-year-old Pope called the schools system a “disastrous error” and asked for forgiveness “for the evil committed by so many Christians” against indigenous peoples.

    Bruce Allan, a survivor of one of the residential schools who was in attendance, said it was emotional to hear the Pope’s apology, but many are still looking for action from the pontiff.

    “I think probably a lot of survivors are quite angry still,” Mr Allan told the BBC.

    The Pope said he travelled to Canada with a small pair of moccasins gifted to him by an indigenous delegation in the Vatican earlier in the year.

    The moccasins, which the Pope was asked to return, serve as a symbol for the children who attended residential schools and never came home.

    He said the moccasins also “speak to us of a path to follow”, – that of justice, healing and reconciliation.

    His remarks were heard by indigenous chiefs who gathered at Muskwa Park alongside First Nations, Métis and Inuit residential school survivors.

    Also in attendance were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon, the first indigenous person to hold that position.

    Prior to his remarks, the Pope met privately with leaders at the local church and led a silent prayer at the Ermineskin Cree Nation Cemetery, where there are marked – and likely unmarked graves – of residential school students.

    After his apology, the Pope wore a traditional headdress gifted to him by an indigenous leader as a Cree honour song was sung in the background.

    The former site of Ermineskin Residential School, one of the largest in Canada, is the Pope’s first stop on his trip – one the pontiff has called “a pilgrimage of penance”.


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