Reaction to the Pope's apology for Catholic Church's role in residential schools

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MASKWACIS — Pope Francis delivered on Monday an apology for the Roman Catholic Church's role in residential schools, saying many Christians supported the colonization of Indigenous people. He made the remarks at the former site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in community of Maskwacis, south of Edmonton.

Here is some of the reaction to the historic apology:

"Pope Francis’s words today and in Rome this spring represent a journey that has taken more than 180 years — from the time the doors of these so-called schools opened to the challenges First Nations people live today. By apologizing for the abuses of the past, Pope Francis has helped to open the door for survivors and their families to walk together with the church for a present and future of forgiveness and healing. I accept and choose this path." — Former Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine, who attended two Manitoba residential schools

"Every survivor will choose how they feel about the apology. We have witnessed the Pope's response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action No. 58 — and heard a message of hope to our people, Canadians, and Catholics worldwide: First Nations cultures, languages, and traditions matter. This message will help to guide us all on the path to reconciliation." — AFN Regional Chief Cindy Woodhouse

"It has been over a year since discovering over a thousand unmarked graves of children on Indian Residential School grounds, and we are still mourning them. An apology does not ease the pain of lost children who never returned home, or the legacy First Nations carry as the Survivors, their children and their grandchildren. However, we encourage the Church to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation by making concrete commitments and true reparations going forward." — Cornell McLean, acting grand chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs

"The Holy Father's apology will lift some of the darkness which the Indian residential school experience represents. The missing children will be acknowledged with utmost respect and care following their families' wishes, as each circumstance requires." — Elder Harvey Nepinak, residential school survivor, who watched the apology from Dauphin, Man.

“The government policy of residential schools, in which the churches participated, created deep wounds that are not easily or quickly healed. Yet we saw at Maskwacis both the resilience of Indigenous Peoples in preserving their culture, as well as the goodwill of Catholics and other Canadians to both truth and reconciliation." — Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

"The Catholic Church and the government worked together in harms and crimes, and they must work together to ensure that the harm done to Indigenous peoples is being addressed in meaningful ways. Co-operating with ongoing investigations and making all documents requested by survivors, police and local governments available is the very least that the Church and the federal government can do for Indigenous peoples." — Federal NDP Crown-Indigenous Relations critic Lori Idlout

“This a significant first step towards reconciliation and acknowledging the intergenerational trauma residential schools have had on Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island. After failed attempts and a lack of will, it’s time the Catholic Church make the investments needed to help ensure individuals and communities can heal.” — Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief Elmer St. Pierre

“I believe today was a very good second beginning, because I believe it started long ago when leaders of the day, before I was around, asked for those very same things.” — Audrey Poitras, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 25, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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