Pope Francis won’t apologize for church role in residential schools

Pope Francis says he can’t personally will not apologize to residential school survivors and their families

Pope Francis will not apologize to residential school survivors and their families for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in operating the schools or the abuses suffered by their students.

A papal apology was one of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and during a visit to the Vatican last year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally asked the Pope to consider such a gesture.

The commission recommended an apology similar to that offered by the Pope to Irish victims of sexual abuse in 2010. In 2015, Pope Frances issued an apology in Bolivia to Indigenous peoples in the Americas for the “grave sins” of colonialism.

Bishop Lionel Gendron, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, today released a letter to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada saying Pope Francis has not shied away from acknowledging injustices faced by Indigenous peoples around the world, but that he can’t personally issue an apology for residential schools.

“The Catholic Bishops of Canada have been in dialogue with the Pope and the Holy See concerning the legacy of suffering you have experienced,” Gendron wrote. “The Holy Father is aware of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which he takes seriously. As far as call to action #58 is concerned, after carefully considering the request and extensive dialogue with the bishops of Canada, he felt that he could not personally respond.”

Gendron says the Pope has not ruled out a visit to Canada and a meeting with Indigenous Peoples, but in the meantime is encouraging Canadian bishops to continue working with Indigenous Peoples on reconciliation issues and projects that help with healing.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement he has written to Pope Frances urging him to come to Canada and meet Indigenous peoples. He is also seeking a direct meeting with the Pope to discuss the issue further.

“Hearing an apology directly from Pope Francis would be an important act of healing and reconciliation, much like his apology delivered to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas in 2015,” Bellegarde said.

Related: Vatican doctrine chief: No need to correct pope on divorce

Trudeau’s office redirected questions about this latest development to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, who said Canada won’t give up on the idea yet.

“The commissioners recommended this as an important part of healing reconciliation for the survivors,” Bennett said in an emailed statement. ”We will continue to advocate for this call to action.”

For more than a century, the federal government’s church-run residential schools operated in an effort to assimilate Indigenous children by forcing them into schools where they were not allowed to speak their languages or engage in Indigenous cultural practices. Almost two-thirds of the 130 schools were run by the Catholic Church.

Between the 1880s and the time the last school closed in 1996, more than 150,000 Indigenous children attended, many of whom reported being physically, sexually and psychologically abused at the hands of priests, nuns or other teachers.

Canada apologized for the schools in 2008, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was born out of a negotiated settlement agreement that included compensation for survivors.

Related: Reconcili-ACTION gives Canadians next steps for reconciliation

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ladysmith proving once again, it’s a small town with a big heart

It takes a town full of volunteers to ensure no child goes hungry

Prosecution in Colin John murder trial wrapping up in Duncan

John on trial for stabbing death in Chemainus in 2016

15 new Indigenous teacher training seats added at Cowichan VIU campus

Thorne said the new Indigenous teacher education curriculum that is planned at VIU

Breakfast with Santa a Ladysmith staple

Nearly 700 people took part in this annual charity event

Christmas comes alive in Crofton

Parade entries light up the night and rain holds off

Man caught on camera allegedly trying to defraud ICBC

Auto-insurer warns B.C. drivers to record info after crashes

Warning issued as forecast calls for 20-foot waves in Tofino

Dangerous waves, strong currents and upper-shoreline flooding expected for Tofino-Ucluelet area

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

An 800-pound pig named Theodore needs a forever home, B.C. society says

‘Theodore is not destined to be somebody’s bacon’

Teenager Alphonso Davies wins Canadian Men’s Soccer Player for the Year Award

Derek Cornelius and Chilliwack native, Jordyn Huitema were named Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

B.C. teen MMA fighter shows heart

Young Unity MMA competitors bring home Ws

2,000 Canadians died of an overdose in first 6 months of the year

New data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows the crisis is not subsiding

Another B.C. city votes to ban single-use plastic bags

First six months of proposed ban would focus on education, not enforcement

Most Read