By Catholic News Agency staff
[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis has expressed sorrow at the discovery of Indigenous children’s graves at a Church-run residential school in Canada.
Speaking after praying of the Angelus June 6, 2021, the pope assured Canadians of his sympathy and prayers, but did not issue a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, as requested by the Canadian government.
He said: “I follow with sorrow the news from Canada about the shocking discovery of the remains of 215 children, pupils of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the province of British Columbia.”
“I join the Canadian bishops and the whole Catholic Church in Canada in expressing my sympathy to the Canadian people, who have been traumatized by the shocking news.”
He continued: “The sad discovery further increases our awareness of the pain and suffering of the past. May Canada’s political and religious authorities continue to work together with determination to shed light on this sad event and humbly commit themselves to a path of reconciliation and healing.”
“These difficult times are a strong call for all to turn away from the colonizing model, and even the ideological colonisations of today, and walk side by side in dialogue, mutual respect, and recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada.”
Asking pilgrims to observe a moment of prayer, he said: “We commend to the Lord the souls of all the children who have died in Canada’s residential schools and we pray for the grieving families and communities of Indigenous Canadians.”
The discovery of the unmarked Indigenous graves at a former Church-run residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, has caused an outcry in Canada.
The remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School were located in mid-May through the use of ground-penetrating radar. The children were buried in unmarked graves, and it is unclear how they died.
The school was the largest institution of its kind and was overseen by the Church between 1890 and 1969.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran from 2008 to 2015, estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the country’s residential schools.
Among the commission’s 94 Calls to Action was a call for the pope “to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the possibility of an apology during a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2017.
Pope Francis gave his live-streamed Angelus address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where a sizeable crowd of pilgrims stood wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He dedicated the address to the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated on Thursday, June 3 at the Vatican, but observed on Sunday in Italy, Canada, and a number of other countries.