QUEBEC, Canada (AFP) – Pope Francis on Friday criticized Catholic missionaries who support “oppressive and unjust policies” against indigenous peoples and vowed to seek truth and justice, ending his Canadian pilgrimage at a meeting with local delegations and a visit to the Inuit territory of Nunavut, in the far north country.
Pope Francis received the victims of boarding schools in eastern Canada at the archbishop’s residence in Quebec City, to reiterate his apology for the abuses suffered by those institutions. From the late 19th century to the 1970s, more than 150,000 Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to boarding schools run by the Catholic Church in order to separate them from their cultures and assimilate into the Canadian Christian community.
The Canadian government has said that physical and sexual abuse are rampant in schools. On Thursday, Francis apologized for the evil caused by the clergy’s sexual abuse of the young and vulnerable. He expressed an irrevocable commitment that this would not happen again.
The Pope hopes his tour of Canada to seek forgiveness will help the Catholic Church reconcile with indigenous peoples, and has promised to follow the path of reparations as compensation for past wrongs. Offers of his apology met with mixed reactions, with some victims welcoming it, while others said more must be done to right past wrongs and bring justice.
Francis spoke to delegates in Quebec City in a spirit of penance, to express the anguish he endures for “the evil caused by a few Catholics, and for supporting oppressive and unjust policies.”
Francisco, who on this trip was forced to use a wheelchair due to pain in his knee ligaments, said: “I have come as a pilgrim, with my limited physical capabilities, to take new steps with you and for you; so the search for truth continues, until progress is made in promoting paths of healing and reconciliation. , so that hope will continue to be planted in future generations of indigenous and non-indigenous people, who wish to live together in fraternal harmony.”
Hours later, Francis will deliver that message to Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut, a vast region above the Arctic Circle. It has a population of about 40,000, most of whom are Inuit.
There he plans to meet the survivors of an elementary school boarding school in Equalit and then speak with Inuit youth and elders in the final chapter of the journey.