Pope Francis issued a public apology on July 25 for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system in Canada where indigenous peoples were subjected to abuse.
“I am here because the first step of my penitential pilgrimage among you is that of again asking forgiveness, of telling you once more that I am deeply sorry,” Francis told representatives of Indigenous Peoples of the First Nations, the Métis, and the Inuit, including residential school survivors.
“I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the indigenous peoples,” the pope also said.
Francis, 85, delivered the remarks in his first public event at the former site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in Maskwacis, Alberta.
The pope’s remarks come after hundreds of unmarked graves at former residential schools across Canada were found last year.
Francis called the school system “a disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Francis returned the children-sized moccasins that were gifted to him by an indigenous delegation in the Vatican in March.
The pope said that the moccasins, which he was asked to return, served as a reminder of his sense of “sorrow, indignation, and shame.”
Francis called for “a serious investigation” into the abuses that occurred in residential schools “as an important part” of the healing process.
The pope is scheduled to make other public remarks throughout his trip.
Pope Francis will also visit the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, the first national parish for indigenous peoples in Canada.
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