Pope criticises ‘unjust’ Catholic missionaries at end of Canada trip

29 July 2022, 17:54

Canada Pope
Canada Pope. Picture: PA

Francis welcomed residential school survivors from eastern Canada to the archbishop’s residence in Quebec City.

Pope Francis has criticised the Catholic missionaries who “supported oppressive and unjust policies” against Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The pontiff vowed to pursue truth and healing as he wrapped up his pilgrimage to the country by meeting Native delegations and visiting Inuit territory in far-north Nunavut.

Francis welcomed residential school survivors from eastern Canada to the archbishop’s residence in Quebec City to reiterate his apology for the abuses they suffered in Canada’s residential school system.

From the late 1800s to the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in church-run boarding schools to sever them from their cultures and assimilate them into Christian Canadian society.

Canada Pope
Pope Francis addresses Indigenous people in Quebec City (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Canadian government has said physical and sexual abuse was rampant at the schools, and Francis on Thursday begged forgiveness for the “evil” of clergy sexual abuse committed against young and vulnerable people, vowing an “irreversible commitment” to prevent it from happening again.

Francis is hoping his apology tour of Canada will help the Catholic Church reconcile with Indigenous peoples, and he has vowed to continue on a path of healing to atone for the past.

His apologies have received a mixed response, with some school survivors welcoming them and others saying far more needs to be done to correct past wrongs and pursue justice today.

“I have come in a spirit of penance, to express my heartfelt pain at the wrong inflicted on you by not a few Catholics who supported oppressive and unjust policies in your regard,” Francis told the delegations in Quebec City.

“I have come as a pilgrim, despite my physical limitations, to take further steps forward with you and for you.”

Pope Canada
Members of a delegation of Indigenous peoples in Quebec await a meeting with Pope Francis (Ciro Fusco, Pool via AP)

Francis, who has been forced to use a wheelchair this trip because of painful strained knee ligaments, said he hoped to make progress in the search for truth “so that the processes of healing and reconciliation may continue, and so that seeds of hope can keep being sown for future generations – indigenous and non-indigenous alike – who desire to live together, in harmony, as brothers and sisters.”

Later on Friday, Francis was bringing that message to Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, a vast territory straddling the Arctic Circle. It is the farthest north the Argentine pope has travelled.

Nunavut is roughly the size of Alaska and California combined, with a mostly Inuit population of about 40,000. The capital city has a population of 7,500, about half of whom are Inuit.

Ahead of the pope’s arrival in Iqaluit, organisers of that portion of the trip readied scores of anti-mosquito mask hats that have net mesh face protection. Mosquitoes can be aggressive amid the mild temperatures that Nunavut experiences in late July.

“The Holy Father’s comfort is certainly a priority. Only he would determine whether he would want to wear one or not,” Neil MacCarthy, communications chief for the papal visit, told AP.

Francis was scheduled to meet residential school survivors at a primary school in Iqaluit and then address Inuit youth and elders in his final event of the trip, aimed at delivering a message of hope for the future.

By Press Association

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