THERE ARE growing calls for Pope Francis to officially apologise on behalf of the Catholic Church for the church's role in Canada's residential schools, set up to forcibly assimilate First Nations children.
Over the past several months, the bodies of over 1,000 children have been discovered at three former residential schools run by the Catholic Church; neither the Pope or the Church have issued a formal apology, leading to huge anger in Canada.
Now elected officials and authorities have called on the Church to formally apologise, with Ontario MPs and Mayor Walter Sendzik writing an open letter to the bishop of St Catharines, their local town, asking that he demands Pope Francis apologise.
In the letter, the officials acknowledge that "The residential school sustem was an attempt by the Government of Canada and Canadian churches to erase Indigenous culture from Canada."
While some other Canadian Christian churches have apologised for their roles in the schools, "the Catholic Church has not.
"Despite pleas from the Prime Minister and Indigenous leaders, Pope Francis has so far refused to acknowledge responsibility and apologise for the role of the Church in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools."
A letter from Mayor Sendzik, Jennie Stevens and myself to Bishop Bergie of the Diocese of St Catharines. pic.twitter.com/StNgNc3hEp
— Chris Bittle (@Chris_Bittle) July 6, 2021
Bishop Bergie had previously acknowledged that the force assimilation of children was "a dark period of our history and one that we can never forget", but the Church as a whole has not apologised, CBC reports.
Elsewhere, an open letter signed by 117 Niagara Catholic educators from the Catholic District School Board said the "thing that were done to the victimized children were disgusting and not part of our faith... the abusers in these Catholic-run schools were acting as members and representatives of the Church."
"We acknowledge that the Vatican did not explicitly direct the exact treatment of these children, but there is no arguing that these crimes against children and families were perpetrated by members of our Church and at times covered up or condoned by other members of our Church."
This is an open letter signed by 117 Niagara Catholic educators to the Catholic Church regarding residential schools in Canada. Please share. If I tagged you , it’s because you have a platform to help get the word out. Thanks. (1/2)@GrantRants @CHCHNews @NiaFallsReview pic.twitter.com/PzY55AsRq0
— andrewchase (@andrewc47377064) July 6, 2021
"We are calling on the Church to officially apologise for the role of some if its clergy in the systemic and abhorrent abuse of the Indigenous children of the residential school system in Canada.
"Jesus calls on us to do what is right."
According to CBC, the Pope will meet First Nations, Métis and Inuit leaders separately between 17 - 20 December this year, to discuss the horrific discoveries and systemic abuse of their people in Canada.
Since the brutal discoveries, multiple Catholic churches have been burned to the ground, with some vandalised in red paint in the shape of handprints.
A protest last week saw demonstrators in Winnipeg rip down statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth: Victoria confederated the colonies in 1867 to form the Dominion of Canada, and reigned when the residential schools were set up.
Demonstrators toppled statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth in Winnipeg this afternoon during rallies honouring the children discovered in unmarked graves on the sites of former residential schools over the past month. pic.twitter.com/Zx0aqPGcOW
— APTN News (@APTNNews) July 2, 2021
Canada's Residential Schools took an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children from their parents, forced them to convert to Christian faiths, and forbade them from speaking their native language, facing brutal beatings if they did so.
Physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the institutions, which operated until the 1970s and forced Indigenous children to assimilate into modern Canadian culture.
The discovery of over 1,000 bodies in the former schools has sparked fury across Canada, ad Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is himself a Catholic, apologised for the crul Government policy but also called
for the "destruction of places of worship" to stop, calling it "not acceptable".
"We must work together to right past wrongs," he said, adding "Everyone has a role to play.”