VATICAN CITY, April 1 (Reuters) – Pope Francis apologised to Canadian indigenous peoples on Friday for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools that sought to erase their cultures and where many children were abused.
Francis, in an address to the native leaders at the end of a week of private meetings with individual groups of delegates from various indigenous nations, also said he would make a trip to Canada. He gave no dates but sources have said they expect the trip for this summer.
The indigenous leaders want the pope to make the apology on Canadian soil.
“For the deplorable behaviour of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask forgiveness from God and I would like to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I am very pained,” he said, speaking in Italian.
“I join my brother Canadian bishops in apologising,” he said.
About 150,000 children were taken from their homes. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide”.
The stated aim of the schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996, was to assimilate indigenous children. They were run by several Christian denominations on behalf of the government, most by the Catholic Church.