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Canada’s Catholic bishops formally apologize for role in residential school system

Canada's Catholic Bishops are apologizing for the church's role in the residential school system.
Canada's Catholic Bishops are apologizing for the church's role in the residential school system. Gerald Herbert / AP Photo

Canada’s Catholic bishops are apologizing for the church’s role in the residential school system.

In an open letter, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops expressed their “profound remorse” for their participation in the system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages and culture.

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“We acknowledge the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual,” the letter reads.

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“We also sorrowfully acknowledge the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day.”

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The bishops are committed to healing, the letter reads, and have pledged to fundraise across the country to support initiatives that will lead the church and Indigenous communities “into a new era of reconciliation.”

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The letter says the church is also committed to providing records to help memorialize those buried in unmarked graves.

Indigenous leaders are set to travel to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis in December to ask for a papal apology.

“Pope Francis will encounter and listen to the Indigenous participants, so as to discern how he can support our common desire to renew relationships and walk together along the path of hope in the coming years,” the letter said.

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The letter raises the possibility of a papal visit to Canada as part of the healing process.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report into the residential school system, released in 2015, called for the pope to come to Canada to apologize to survivors as well as their families and communities for the abuses faced by Indigenous children.

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It asked for that to happen within one year of the report’s release and to be similar to the papal apology delivered to victims in Ireland that suffered different abuses through the Catholic Church.

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

— with files from The Canadian Press

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