These are historical apologies. Pope Francis presented on Friday 1er april “apologies” for the drama of violence perpetrated for decades in residential schools for natives run by the Church, in Canada. He also expressed his wish to visit the country at the end of July.
“I ask God’s forgiveness for the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church” and “I join my fellow Canadian bishops in apologizing to you”the pope said during a Vatican audience in front of the Métis, Inuit and First Nations delegations.
Long-awaited, these apologies were immediately hailed by the indigenous delegations as “an essential piece of the puzzle” on the way to reconciliation. Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, hailed a “significant step”, adding: “We can’t wait for him to come to Canada to apologize in person. »
For Mr. Trudeau, the history of Canada will be “forever tainted by the tragic reality of the residential school system”, he noted in a press release. The country should not “never forget the unimaginable tragedies that have taken place” and must “to pay tribute to the missing children who never returned home”.
Earlier this week, the indigenous delegations, made up of thirty-two representatives and Canadian bishops, had presented to the sovereign pontiff testimonies of survivors of these residential schools administered by the Catholic and Anglican Churches. “Through your voices, I have carried within me, with great sadness in my heart, the stories of suffering, deprivation, discriminatory treatment and various forms of abuse suffered by many of you, particularly in boarding schools”said the 85-year-old pontiff.
Jorge Bergoglio expressed his desire to travel to Canada around St. Anne’s Day – celebrated on July 26, it occupies an important place in indigenous cultures – to express his ” proximity “ with these Native American peoples. “I would like to be with you this year” corn “I will not come in winter! »he joked.
In a more serious tone, visibly marked by the testimonies, the pope expressed his ” shame “ and sound ” grief “ for the role of some Catholics, “especially those with educational responsibilities”in “the abuse you have suffered and the lack of respect for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values”.
“The Pope’s words were historic and necessary and I deeply appreciate them. I now look forward to his coming to Canada where he can offer this sincere apology directly to our survivors and their families.”said Cassidy Caron, president of the Métis National Council, after the meeting. “Today is a day we’ve been waiting for (…) and certainly a day that will go down in historyreacted during a press conference Gerald Antoine, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations. We accept this apology as a gesture of good faith. »
1,300 children’s graves have been found
The discovery of hundreds of anonymous children’s graves in recent months has shaken Canada and many survivors were waiting for a strong gesture from the pope. In September, the Catholic Church in Canada issued a formal apology to Indigenous peoples. Between the end of the XIXand century and the 1980s, some 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly enrolled in more than 130 residential schools across the country, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture. Thousands never came back; the authorities estimate their number at between 4,000 and 6,000. In 2015, a national commission of inquiry had qualified this system as “cultural genocide”.
For nearly a year, more than 1,300 graves of anonymous children have been found on the sites of former boarding schools, and multiple searches are continuing across the country.
The Canadian delegations intended to discuss with the Argentine pope, who has made the defense of minorities one of the priorities of his pontificate, “the impact of colonialism” on indigenous peoples.
In this regard, the pope mentioned on Friday ” the drama “ from “uprooting”. “The chain that transmitted knowledge and ways of life, in harmony with the territory, was broken by colonization”, denounced François. This one has “ripped many of you from your living environment and tried to conform you to another mentality”he underlined, castigating the “ideological colonization” and the“assimilation action” of which “so many children have been victims”. “Your identity and your culture have been hurt, many families separated”he lamented.
After hearing traditional local songs, the pope presented the delegations with a bronze olive branch and received several symbolic gifts, including a cross from the Inuit delegation and traditional snowshoes.