A CATHOLIC priest in Canada has said the discovery of hundreds of children buried in mass graves on former residential schools is a 'huge lie'.
Catholic priest Rev. Marcin Mirioniuk, of the Our Lady Queen of Poland church in Edmonton, Canada, repeatedly denied the existence of over 1,000 graves which held the bodies of indigenous children held in Canada's residential schools.
He is now set to make a formal apology for his comments after the Archdiocese of Edmonton became aware of his claims that the mass graves were 'lies' and 'manipulation' by Indigenous communities.
As reported by Vice, Rev Mirioniuk told his congregation that the children forced to attend Catholic-run schools to assimilate them into modern Canadian society had died of "natural causes" and said nobody was allowed to see the mass graves as the Indigenous people were "manipulating" and "lying".
In Polish-language masses, Rev Mirioniuk told those in attendance that he had gone "incognito" to some burial sites and was told he could not see the mass graves as they were on sacred ground, to which he replied "Oh, well if it's a sacred place then you won't allow exhumation to happen to determine why the kids were buried there".
"The lies will turn into a truth that people will end up believing," he said. "Let's protect the truth."
Rev Mironiuk's comments were streamed on Youtube, but the video has since been taken down.
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.
In recent months, on four different sites on the grounds of what were once Catholic-run residential schools, mass graves holding the bodies of over 1,000 children were discovered-- some believed to be as young as three years old.
There is huge anger towards the Catholic church, its lack of action and its continued lack of an official apology, although individual priests and bishops have apologised, none has been forthcoming from Pope Francis, despite repeated calls by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is himself a Catholic.
Following the reveal by Vice News, a statement was issued by the Archdiocese of Edmonton which said they were "aware of statements regarding residential schools made by Rev. Marcin Mironiuk, OMI, pastor at Our Lady Queen of Poland Parish, during his announcements following Masses on July 18, 2021"
"As soon as the Archdiocese was made aware of these statements, they were reviewed and the YouTube video of Rev. Mironiuk’s Masses was taken offline.
"Rev. Mironiuk apologizes unequivocally and expresses deep regret for those statements. They cannot be justified in any way. Moreover, the statements have caused further pain to residential school survivors, the Indigenous community, and all Canadians at a time when we are trying to come to terms with the legacy of residential schools and the Church’s involvement in them.
"Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith has accepted Rev. Mironiuk’s apology. Rev. Mironiuk will also be making a public statement of apology during the Aug. 14-15 weekend Masses. He will also continue to work with the Indigenous ministry in the Archdiocese to further his own understanding and education on residential schools.
"There is no reconciliation without truth. The Archdiocese of Edmonton remains committed to full transparency with respect to any relevant archives and records, sharing them with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, working to support Indigenous peoples, and continuing to walk together with Indigenous people along the long road towards healing and reconciliation, justice and equality."