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Pope seeks apologies for ‘sexual abuse’ perpetrated by residential schools in Canada

On Thursday, Pope Francis addressed a serious wound that many survivors wanted him to address during his apology trip to Canada by pleading for forgiveness for sexual abuse at Catholic-run schools for indigenous children in Canada. During a nighttime vespers service with priests and nuns in Quebec City cathedral, the pope declared that the Church in Canada was on a new path after being ‘devastated by the evil perpetrated by some of its sons and daughters’.

According to Reuters, the pope stated on the final day of his six-day visit to Canada, ‘I’m thinking specifically of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people, scandals that demand swift action and an unwavering commitment. I’d like to ask forgiveness of all the victims once more, along with you. The pain and shame we feel must serve as a catalyst for change: never again!’

Between 1870 and 1996, more than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and enrolled in schools. It was the first time the Pope had publicly addressed the issue of sexual abuse in schools. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada labeled the practice ‘cultural genocide’ because it resulted in the children being starved or beaten for speaking their native tongues, as well as many of them being sexually assaulted.

The remarks come on the heels of the pope’s historic apology on Monday in Maskwacis, the site of two former schools, in which he called the Church’s involvement in the schools and the forced cultural assimilation they attempted a ‘deplorable evil’ and ‘disastrous error’. However, despite eliciting strong emotions and being lauded as the first step toward reconciliation, survivors criticized the apology for falling short of their expectations. One of their complaints was that there was no mention of sexual abuse.

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