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Pope Expresses ‘Sorrow’ to Victims of Canadian Schools

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI met aboriginal survivors of Canada’s residential school system on Wednesday (Apr. 29) and voiced his “sorrow” over “deplorable” abuses in the church-run schools.
“Given the sufferings that some indigenous children experienced in the Canadian Residential School system, the Holy Father expressed his sorrow at the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of some members of the Church and he offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity,” the Vatican said in a statement.
“His Holiness emphasized that acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society.”
Benedict privately received a delegation led by Phil Fontaine, grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, and Archbishop James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, after the pope’s weekly public audience.
The private meeting resulted from more than two years of diplomatic efforts between native leaders and the Catholic Church.
For a century starting in the 1880s, the Canadian government and four churches ran some 130 residential schools. An estimated 150,000 aboriginal children were removed from their homes and forced to attend the schools in an attempt to assimilate them into the dominant white, Christian culture.
Students were prohibited from speaking their native languages and engaging in cultural or spiritual practices. Many were physically, emotionally and sexually abused.
The Presbyterian, Anglican and United churches had already apologized for their roles in the schools. The sole hold-out was the Catholic Church, which ran about 75 percent of the institutions. Last June, the Canadian government issued a historic apology.
“There was a feeling that despite the apologies that were offered by the oblates and some bishops, that the Catholic Church as a whole has not recognized the part that we played,” Archbishop Weisgerber told the Canadian television network CTV following Wednesday’s papal meeting.
“It was important to hear from the one person who does speak for the Catholic Church around the world, to hear him say `I am sorry,”‘ Weisgerber said.
Fontaine, himself a survivor of Canada’s residential schools, acknowledged that the pope’s statement did not amount to a formal apology, but told CBC News that he hoped it would “close the book” on the issue of apologies for residential school survivors.
“The fact that the word ‘apology’ was not used does not diminish this moment in any way,” he said. “This experience gives me great comfort.”
By Francis X. Rocca and Ron Csillag
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • nnmns

    “The Presbyterian, Anglican and United churches had already apologized for their roles in the schools. The sole hold-out was the Catholic Church, which ran about 75 percent of the institutions. ”
    What is wrong with the RCC?! Do they refuse to recognize a wrong if it involved them?
    This illustrates yet again that churches should not be agents for governments. I expect the government could have done pretty badly itself but if you are doing bad and are convinced you are doing your god’s work you can do terrible things. And there’s the same old sexual abuse. In how many other countries has that happened and not been made public yet?

  • pagansister

    The arrogance of the “White Man” in taking children away from their families to convert them and raise them without any regard to their wonderful native cultures is just unreal. Apparently the Canadians did this, the Aussies, and we folks in the U.S. did this too. So the Canadians not only permanently removed these children, forcing them to speak only English, taught them the wonderful Christian faith and futher abused them physically as well as mentally and emotionally. So finally the government of Canada has apologized, as well as other denominations but it took the RCC this long?? 2 years of talk between the natives and the RCC to get his apology? That is outrageous. But unfortunately it sounds like par for the course for the RCC.

  • Your Name

    How many times does this pope think he can say, “I’m Sorry” and still expect to be believed. Criminals are always so terribly, terribly sorry….After they’ve gotten caught. Pope Ratzinger knows the part he played in the criminal coverup of the sexual victimization and sexual slavery of children by Roman Catholic Priests, Brothers, Deacons, Nuns, Lay Teachers and (yes) some Bishops; ‘else, why did Ratzinger seek, and was granted, Executive Immunity From Prosecution, from (then) President George W. Bush? Lay Catholics ask why it has taken so many years for Victims/Survivors to come forward about their sexual victimization by catholic clergy? (Most of us did, but were silenced). I ask, why has it taken the Catholic Church (Popes & Bishops) to address the thousands of priests who have raped and sodomized hundreds of thousands of the Children of the Church? If the Pope reads this, may I suggest he stop saying, “I’m Sorry”. WE DON’T BELIEVE YOU!!!!

  • jestrfyl

    We must all admit our ancestors shame and do what we can to reconcile and make amends. At least the RCC did this. The question is what must be done to make things right.

  • cknuck

    Unfortunately this is progress

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