Pope Francis Apology

I don’t know what Pope Francis’ apology for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the institutions of forced assimilation in Canada might mean to Indigenous peoples. This is something First Nations Peoples in Canada have been asking for many years. Acknowledging the harm done is part of the process of healing and reconciliation. The vast scope of the damage and the length of time it was done should have begun to be addressed years ago.

I must note that Quakers were among those who established and operated such institutions in the United States. The damage done by Quakers and other religious organizations should also have begun to be addressed years ago. This has long been and continues to be a deep concern of mine. [see: residential schools]

Vatican City.  Pope Francis apologized on Friday for the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in a system of Canadian boarding schools that abused Indigenous children for 100 years, and said he would travel to Canada as part of a process of healing and reconciliation.

His apology comes after Canada was jolted last year by the discovery of signs that more than 1,000 people, most of them children, may have been buried in unmarked graves on the grounds of the former schools.

“I feel shame — sorrow and shame — for the role” that Catholics played “in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,” Francis said.

“I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” Francis said, adding that he joined with Canadian bishops “in asking your pardon.”

Pope Apologizes to Indigenous People of Canada by Elisabetta Povoledo and Ian Austen, The New York Times, April 1, 2022

CALGARY, Alberta — For decades, the Indigenous children were taken from their families, sometimes by force, and housed in crowded, church-run boarding schools, where they were abused and prohibited from speaking their languages. Thousands vanished altogether.

Now, a new discovery offers chilling evidence that many of the missing children may have died at these schools: The remains of as many as 751 people, mainly Indigenous children, were found at the site of a former school in the province of Saskatchewan, an Indigenous group said on Thursday.

The burial site, the largest one to date, was uncovered only weeks after the remains of 215 children were found in unmarked graves on the grounds of another former church-run school for Indigenous students in British Columbia.

The discoveries have jolted a nation grappling with generations of widespread and systematic abuse of Indigenous people, many of whom are survivors of the boarding schools. For decades, they suggested through their oral histories that thousands of children disappeared from the schools, but they were often met with skepticism. The revelations of two unmarked grave sites are another searing reminder of this traumatic period in history.

Hundreds More Unmarked Graves Found at Former Residential School in Canada. An Indigenous group said the remains of as many as 751 people, mainly children, had been found in unmarked graves on the site of a former boarding school in Saskatchewan. Ian Auten and Dan Bilefsky, The New York Times, July 30, 2021

The Indigenous delegation also raised the issue of the Doctrine of Discovery.

The delegates also asked Francis to revoke a 1493 papal bull issued by Pope Alexander VI that had given Spain authority over the newly discovered lands of the Americas, allowing the Spanish to colonize and enslave the Indigenous peoples and convert them to Catholicism. The papal bull, which informed the “doctrine of discovery,” was “used for centuries to expropriate Indigenous lands and facilitate their transfer to colonizing or dominating nations,” according to the United Nations

Indigenous groups in Canada say that while the theories of racial superiority that underlie the doctrine have long been discredited, it continued to surface in legal disputes over land until 2014. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that year, without naming the papal bull, that the idea that no one owned land until it was claimed by Europeans “never applied in Canada.” 

Pope Apologizes to Indigenous People of Canada by Elisabetta Povoledo and Ian Austen, The New York Times, April 1, 2022


I wasn’t sure what image might be appropriate for such a horrific subject. I took this photo at the destination of the first day of the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. A small group of native and nonnative people walked and camped together along the path of the Dakota Access pipeline through central Iowa. Our sacred journey required eight days and nights to walk ninety-four miles, Sept 1-8, 2018. The intent of beginning a community who began to know and trust each other was achieved. Since, many of us have worked together in many ways, which have strengthened our bonds. [see: https://firstnationfarmer.com/]

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