It was the discovery last summer of the remains of hundreds of native children near Catholic schools in the Canada to revive the spotlight on one of the darkest pages in the history of the North American country. A dark side for which Pope Francis now he is in Canada to apologize to the Native American people. This is what has been called a “cultural genocide” perpetrated by the Canadian government against Indigenous communities for over a century. take away from familiesoften by force, hundreds of thousands of children who were enrolled in residential schools funded by the state and run by the Catholic Church.
The objectives of these instituteswhich remained active until the late seventies, was to assimilate native children into the dominant culture, forbidding them to speak their language and follow their own traditions, also force Christian conversion. In these boarding schools, children have been subjected to abuse, horrific physical and sexual abuse, and thousands of children have died there, according to the 2015 report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commissionthe commission created after the Canadian government formally apologized to indigenous communities in 2008. “I’ve been waiting to reach you. It’s from here, from this sadly evocative place, that I want to begin what I have in my heart: a penitential pilgrimage”.
Pope Francis gives his first speech on the trip in Canada meeting the indigenous peoples First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The Prime Minister was also present Justin Trudeauand the Governor General of Canada, Mary Simons, first native governor. “I come to the countries of your birth – says the Pope, speaking in his language Spanish – to tell you personally that I am sorry, to ask God for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation, to show you my presence, to pray with you and for you”. Bergoglio resumes the meetings he had four months ago with the indigenous peoples The Vaticanwhen he listened to the suffering, the abuses, the violence, the horrors in schools, which were also allowed by many Catholics: “Then I got two pairs of moccasins, a sign of the suffering endured by native children, especially by those who unfortunately never returned home from secondary schools. I had been asked to return the loafers when I entered Canada; I will do so at the end of these words that I would like to start from this symbol, which has revived pain, indignation and shame in me in the last months ».
«It is necessary to remember how the policy of assimilation and liberation, which also included the system of residential schools, has been devastating for the people of these countries. – complaint -. When the European settlers first arrived there, there was great opportunity to develop a fruitful encounter between cultures, traditions and spirituality. But it largely did not happen. And your stories come to mind: of how policies of assimilation have ended up systematically marginalizing indigenous peoples; how, even through the residential school system, your languages and cultures have been debased and suppressed; how the children suffered physical and verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse; how they were taken away from their homes when they were small and how this indelibly marked the relationship between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren ».
«Today I am here, in this land, which, together with an ancient memory, guards the scars of still open wounds. I am here because the first step in this penitential pilgrimage among you – he says Francis – is to renew my request for forgiveness and to tell you with all my heart that I am deeply sorry: I ask forgiveness for the ways in which, unfortunately, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous peoples. I’m sorry. In particular, I ask forgiveness for the ways in which many members of the church and religious communities have cooperated, including through indifference, to these projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation by the governments of the dayculminating in the residential school system ».