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Pope Francis Addresses Indigenous Peoples Outside Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on Monday, apologizing on behalf of the Catholic Church for the oppression and “forced assimilation” and mistreatment of children in religious boarding schools.
Between 1881 and 1996, over 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and sent to boarding schools. Several children were allegedly starved, beaten and sexually abused.
“I’m really sorry. I apologize in particular for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities cooperated, not least because of their indifference to the projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of the time, which culminated in the boarding school system.” Pope Francis said.
Canadian leaders have known of many children dying in schools since 1907, but these incidents have gained more attention since last year’s revelations of what seemed to be unmarked graves in former boarding schools or near them.
Canada Catholic Church says its dioceses and religious orders have provided more than $50 million in cash and in kind, and hopes to add another $30 million over the next five years.
The Pope called his trip “a penitential pilgrimage.”
“I have come to your native land to personally tell you about my sadness. Pray to God for forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. To express my closeness and pray with you and for you,” he said.
The Pope’s appeal was based on the fact that it was once a boarding school for the Stoat Indians, but now has a school run by four local Cree peoples.
Thousands of tickets were reserved for native survivors of boarding schools. Indigenous leaders at Treaty 6, a site Francis visits in Alberta, said they were overwhelmed with requests from survivors wanting to attend the event.
Fox News Landon Mion, Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.