Pope Francis said on Wednesday that he felt the pain of survivors of Canada’s residential school system like “slaps” and that the Catholic Church has to face up to its responsibility for institutions that abused children and tried to erase Indigenous cultures.
“I assure you that in these meetings, especially the last one, I had to feel the pain of these people, like slaps, how they lost (so much), how the elderly lost their children and did not know where they ended up, because of this policy of assimilation,” he said in unscripted comments.
The Pope dedicated his talk at his weekly general audience to his trip last week to Canada, where he apologized several times for the church’s role in the government-sanctioned schools, which operated between 1870 and 1996.
More than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools. Catholic religious orders ran most of the schools under successive Canadian governments’ policy of assimilation.
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