Pope Francis has said he was pained by the discovery of the remains of 215 children in a former Catholic school for indigenous students in Canada, and called for respect for the rights and culture of indigenous peoples.
He urged Canadian Catholic religious and political leaders to “cooperate with determination” to shed light on the find and seek reconciliation and healing. Francis said he felt close “to the Canadian people, who have been traumatized by the shocking news.”
Speaking to pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, he stopped before the direct apology that many Canadians had demanded of the Catholic Church for its role in residential schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996 and they were led by various Christians. denominations on behalf of the government.
The discovery last month of the children’s remains at the Kamloops Indian residential school in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has reopened old wounds and is fueling outrage in Canada over the lack of information and accountability.
The residential school system forcibly removed some 150,000 children from their homes. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called “cultural genocide”.
Francis spoke two days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running many of the schools.