Pope Francis concluded this Friday in Iqaluit, in northern Canada, the six-day visit to the North American country which focused on his requests for forgiveness from local indigenous peoples for the role of Christians in the abuses of all kinds committed in the boarding of schools for natives which functioned for most of the twentieth century.
With his visit to the city of 7,740, the pope ended a visit that began in Edmonton on Sunday and which from the start has been marked by repeated pleas for forgiveness from local Indigenous peoples for the role of Christians and institutions of the Catholic Church in the boarding schools that operated in Canada to westernize Indigenous children from 1883 to 1996.
During the trip, aided in many sections by a wheelchair, Francisco visited three cities representative of the country’s three Indigenous peoples: Edmonton, mostly First Nations; Quebec, with a Métis majority and finally Iqaluit, territory of the Inuit.
In his final speech in Canada, just 300 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle, the pope once again acknowledged the “outrage and shame” caused by the role of some members of the Church in the functioning of the 139 residential schools established by the Government of Canada and which it had already defined as an experiment which led to “cultural destruction”.
“Even today, here too, I would like to tell you that I am truly sorry and I want to apologize for the evil committed by many Catholics who, in these schools, have contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation and disengagement “, he told a group. Inuit elders and youth.
“How wrong it is to sever the bonds between parents and children, to hurt the dearest affections, to hurt and scandalize the little ones!” he said of the school policy which was funded by the Canadian state and for which, according to officials’ estimates, approximately 150,000 children died without parental consent.
In his ninth and last speech, the sovereign pontiff deplored the current situation with “a world that seems to be sinking ever lower amid scandals, wars, deceit, injustice, environmental destruction, indifference towards the weakest, disappointments for some of those who should lead by example”.
Francis began his activities this Friday with a private meeting with Canadian Jesuits, then received natives at the local archdiocese and asked them to feel “part of their family”.
“Me atrevo a decir, si me lo permiten, que ahora, en cierto sentido, yo también me siento parte de su familia, y me siento honrado”, planted hoy el Papa al recibir en el arzobispado de Quebec a un grupo de indígenas del Country.
The pope told the natives that he would return “much more enriched”.
“Because I carry in my heart the incomparable treasure made up of people and cities that have marked me; of faces, smiles and words that remain in me; of stories and places that I will not be able to forget; of sounds, colors and emotions that vibrate strongly in me”, he explained.
“I can truly say that during my visit it was their realities, the indigenous realities of this land, that visited my soul; they entered me and will always accompany me,” said Jorge Bergoglio, who during his tour visited a native cemetery. , took part in a pilgrimage to a miraculous lake and apologized for the role of Christians in the boarding school system from which some 150,000 children suffered, among other gestures towards the natives.
“I came to Canada as a friend to meet you, to see, hear, learn and appreciate the way the Indigenous peoples of this country live. I came as a brother, to experience first hand the fruits, good and bad, produced by the local Catholic family members over the years,” he elaborated.
If the 139 boarding schools are instituted by the State, about forty centers are managed by institutions linked to Christianity and Catholicism.
“I have come with a penitential spirit, to express the pain I carry in my heart for the harm that many Catholics have caused them by supporting oppressive and unjust policies,” the pope recalled in his address on Friday.
“I have come as a pilgrim, with my limited physical possibilities, to take new steps forward with you and for you; for the search for truth to continue, for progress to be made in the promotion of paths of healing and of reconciliation, so that they continue to sow hope in future generations of natives and non-natives, who wish to live together fraternally, in harmony”, he called.
Asking for forgiveness for what the Pope considered the “disastrous” experience of boarding schools, which Bergoglio said caused a “cultural destruction” of indigenous customs, is the common thread of the six-day visit to Canada that Francis has started on Sunday.
Some of the boarding schools across the country, designed and funded by the Canadian state, were run by Catholic and Christian institutions, for which survivors claimed in 2015 the need for a papal apology in Canada that the pope eventually filled. this week.
In addition to the request for forgiveness from the indigenous peoples, repeated in his meetings with each of the peoples, the Pope’s agenda was crossed by the requests of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Midway through the tour, the pope received a request from the Canadian government that the Vatican restore a series of indigenous artefacts that the Holy See has had in its museums for over a century and that, according to what Telam has learned from official sources, the Vatican alleges that were a gift from the missionaries to the then Pope Pius XI.
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