Pope Francis apologizes to the original peoples of Canada

Pope Francis apologized Monday for the wrong done to Canada’s original peoples on the first day of a visit focused on addressing decades of abuse committed in Catholic institutions.

The gesture was greeted with applause by a crowd of Canadian native peoples in the western province of Alberta, where children of various ethnic groups were separated from their families and subjected to what is now considered a “cultural genocide.”

“I apologize for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities cooperated, also through indifference, in these projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation,” the pope said.

“The policies of assimilation and disengagement, which also included the residential school system, were disastrous for the people of these lands,” he acknowledged.

Hundreds of people, many in traditional dress, along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Simon, the country’s first Indigenous Governor-General, attended the event.

“The place where we find ourselves echoes a cry of pain, a suffocated cry that has accompanied me during these months,” Francis said, mentioning the “physical, psychological and spiritual abuse” suffered by the children.

The original leaders placed on the pope’s head a traditional attribute of feathers.

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