Pope Francis’ apology failed to acknowledge full role of Church in residential schools, says Murray Sinclair


Pope Francis presides over a mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on July 26.VATICAN MEDIA/Reuters

The chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada has issued a scathing criticism of Pope Francis’ apology to Indigenous peoples, saying that “it has left a deep hole in the recognition of the full role of the Church in the system of residential schools, blaming individual members of the church”.

Mr Sinclair issued a press release moments before Pope Francis appeared before thousands of people at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton for a mass commemorating Saint Anne, grandmother of Jesus.

In 2015, the commission issued Call to Action #58, asking the Pope to apologize to Canada for the Church’s role in the residential school system. On Monday, seven years later, Pope Francis answered the call, but apologized for the individual Catholics who attended the schools, not the church as a whole.

The wording has rattled many Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors, who have been reiterating their demands for an institutional apology since April, when the pope delivered similar words of grief in Rome.

“It was more than the work of a few bad actors – it was a concerted institutional effort to remove children from their families and cultures, all in the name of Christian supremacy,” Mr Sinclair said.

He added that he hopes the pope will take the criticism to heart as he continues his six-day pilgrimage to Canada.

On Tuesday morning, Pope Francis presided over a mass in front of tens of thousands of people at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton. He focused more on spiritual matters than on the penitential themes of the previous day.

July 26 is the feast day of Saint Anne, a revered figure among Indigenous Catholics, and Pope Francis took the opportunity to remind viewers of the importance of listening to elders.

“In the fog of oblivion that darkens our turbulent times, it is essential to cultivate our roots, to pray for and with our ancestors, to devote time to remembering and protecting their heritage,” he said. , according to an English translation of his homily. , which he spoke in Spanish. “This is how a family tree grows, this is how the future is built.”

Several people at Commonwealth Stadium told The Globe and Mail they accepted Francis’ apology on Monday was sincere. They were at the stadium, they said, because they respected what François stood for. “We are here because, for us, Francis represents hope and change for the Catholic Church,” said Angela Jackson, 45, a craftswoman from Canmore, Alta. “It represents openness and acceptance of different groups of people, like LGBTQ people, who have been shunned in the past. Our faith should be about universal love and acceptance.

Pope Francis apologized and asked for forgiveness during his “penitential pilgrimage” for the abuses suffered by Indigenous people in residential schools in Canada. Watch the Pope’s full statement in Maskwacis, Alberta. In Monday.

The Globe and Mail

Brian Lucas, 46, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation from Port Alberni, British Columbia, agrees. He and his family drove 14 hours to get to Edmonton. “I have no reason to hate him or the church, although both my parents went to boarding schools and had horrible drinking and gambling problems.” Mr Lucas said he accepted Francis’ apology and it was time to move on. “I don’t want to hold on to resentment because I don’t want to pass resentment on to my children and grandchildren,” he said. “I’ve learned that it’s more important to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”

Prior to the service, the pontiff toured the Commonwealth Stadium in one of his popemobiles, a custom Jeep Wrangler. He blessed a number of babies, including Gianna George. Gianna’s parents, Gerrin and Liza, restrained her, and security passed the child to Francis. He kissed her on the forehead and the crowd cheered. “We feel so excited and delighted. Our prayers have been answered and heard,” Ms George said after the blessing.

Later Tuesday, Pope Francis is due to visit Lac Ste. Anne, about 90 kilometers northwest of Edmonton. The holy site attracts up to 40,000 pilgrims every year. Last week, Alberta Health Services issued an alert for toxic blue-green algae in the lake and warned visitors against swimming or wading. It is unclear how the notice will affect the proceedings.

On day two of his six-day trip to Canada, Pope Francis said he was ‘deeply sorry’ for church members who participated in the ‘cultural destruction and forced assimilation’ of Indigenous peoples through the residential school system.

Catholic missionaries ran the majority of the approximately 140 government-funded residential schools that crossed the country from the 1800s until 1969, when Ottawa took over administrative duties. The federal government estimates that approximately 150,000 Aboriginal children attended the schools. Many have suffered physical and sexual abuse. Under the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, the federal government set aside nearly $2 billion to compensate former students.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on the Pope to apologize for the Church’s role in “the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of children in Catholic boarding schools.”

Opinion: Pope Francis’ apology was heartfelt and historic. But it left us wanting more

At first, the leaders of the Canadian bishops were hesitant. Some said the church’s decentralized structure meant the pope had little responsibility for events in remote archdioceses. They also argued that Pope Benedict XVI’s expression of sadness in 2009 during a closed-door meeting with indigenous leaders addressed the issue.

The push to apologize intensified last year, when several First Nations located possible unmarked graves at the sites of former residential schools using ground-penetrating radar. Their findings made international headlines. The Vatican invited a delegation of indigenous leaders and residential school survivors to Rome last December, but a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases led to the cancellation of the trip.

On a postponed spring trip, the pope told the delegation he was sorry for the “deplorable conduct” of church members who abused children in boarding schools and vowed to bring feelings to the Canadian soil.

Many indigenous leaders hoped he would expand on his words to Rome and issue an institutional apology, not just express sadness for the actions of individual Catholics. But the apology reiterated much of what he had said in Rome.

“I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities have cooperated, notably through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by governments era, which culminated in the residential school system,” he said Monday at an outdoor rally near the former site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School, once one of the largest residential schools.

He said the residential school policies were “catastrophic” and asked for forgiveness “for the wrong done by so many Christians against Indigenous peoples.”

Towards the end of his address, the pope called for a “serious investigation into what happened in the past and to help survivors of residential schools have an experience of healing from the traumas they suffered.” The pontiff spoke in Spanish, his first language, with English translations provided by the Holy See’s press office.

There were moments of reflection, remembrance and emotion as Pope Francis apologized on Monday for the story of abuse suffered by Indigenous children in residential schools. The pope paused to reflect in a cemetery, returned moccasins given to him at the Vatican, and a Cree woman sang the national anthem in her native language.

The Globe and Mail

Onlookers gave the speech a warm welcome, cheering and clapping after his expression of grief. Afterwards, however, many viewers said they expected more. “I’m glad to hear he said the words, ‘I’m sorry,’ but it wasn’t as comprehensive as it could have been,” said Kukdookaa Terri Brown, residential school survivor and founding president. Circle of Survivors with the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation

She also noted that the pope refused to mention sexual abuse or the Doctrine of Discovery in his speech.

During the remainder of his visit, Pope Francis is expected to meet with Indigenous groups and residential school survivors in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut.

The pontiff called it a “penitential pilgrimage”, the first such visit by a pope. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict issued apologies for church abuse, but never emphasized contrition on a single trip.

John Paul II is the only other pope to have visited Canada. He made the apostolic journey three times, in 1984, 1987 and 2002. During his first visit, he met with several indigenous delegations to acknowledge the errors of Catholic missionaries, preach reconciliation and defend indigenous self-government. He also reaffirmed a 1537 papal edict stating that indigenous peoples should not be deprived of liberty or property.

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