Pope calls for reconciliation at Canadian indigenous church

STORY: As he had in an address at the site of two former residential schools earlier in the day, Pope Francis again asked for forgiveness.

The Pope said he was pained to think that “Catholics contributed to policies” that had led to “robbing communities and individuals of their cultural and spiritual identity, severing their roots and fostering prejudicial and discriminatory attitudes.”

Pope Francis made the comments in front of a congregation at the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in downtown Edmonton.

The Pope is on the first leg of his tour of Canadian soil to heal deep wounds that rose to the fore after the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools last year. The 85-year-old had promised such a tour to indigenous delegations that visited him earlier this year at the Vatican, where he made an initial apology.

Between 1881 and 1996 more than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools. Many children were starved, beaten for speaking their native languages, and sexually abused in a system that Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission called "cultural genocide."

Most of the schools were run for the government by Roman Catholic religious orders of priests and nuns.

Last year, the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in British Columbia were discovered. Since then, the suspected remains of hundreds more children have been detected at other former residential schools around the country.

Many survivors and indigenous leaders say they want more than an apology. They also want financial compensation, the return of artefacts sent to the Vatican by missionaries, support in bringing an alleged abuser now living in France to justice and the release of records held by the religious orders that ran the schools.

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