Pope Francis’s Quest for Forgiveness

In order to move forward we must look back and own up to our past mistakes and failures regardless of the fear on the pain and trauma, we may have inflicted on others around us at the time. Pope Francis has embarked on a mission of repenting and seeking forgiveness from an indigenous community in Canada.

The Pope travelled to Canada to apologise for the Church’s role in “residential schools” which were meant to assimilate indigenous children. The government-funded schools were part of a policy meant to destroy indigenous cultures and languages in the country. Although financed by the government, most of the schools were run by churches.

I am here because the first step of my penitential pilgrimage among you is that of again asking forgiveness, of telling you once more that I am deeply sorry. Sorry for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous peoples. I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,the Pope said.

During the regime, thousands of children were torn from their families and suffered ‘physical and verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse’ in the schools. The Pope travelled with a small pair of moccasins gifted to him by an indigenous delegation in the Vatican earlier in the year. The moccasins, which the Pope was asked to return, serve as a symbol for the children who attended residential schools and never came home.

These are traumas that are in some way reawakened whenever the subject comes up. I realize too that our meeting today can bring back old memories and hurts, and that many of you may feel uncomfortable even as I speak” Pope Francis added.

He said the moccasins also “speak to us of a path to follow”, – that of justice, healing, and reconciliation. This was the first stop of the Pope on his mission of “a pilgrimage of penance”


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