STORY: Francis is on a week-long tour of Canada to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church's role in running residential schools that tore indigenous children away from their families and became places where abuse was rampant.
More than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools, which were run from 1870 to 1996. Many were starved, beaten for speaking their native languages and sexually abused in a system that Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission called "cultural genocide."
"May we learn never to pressure the consciences of others, never to restrict the freedom of those around us, and above all, never to fail in loving and respecting those who preceded us and are entrusted to our care," Francis said during Mass on Tuesday.
About 50,000 people attended the service, including residential school survivor Albertine Whitefish Ahtehkamake. "I know there is some people who are not that are not really satisfied about this thing. I know they can’t forgive other people. They can’t accept this one at this time, but I do. I do forgive,” she said.
At the conclusion of the Mass, Edmonton's Archbishop Richard W. Smith thanked the pontiff for his visit and pledged to do better by the country's indigenous people, saying, "The bishops of Canada are fully committed to walking together with the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples."
In the afternoon, Francis, who is using a wheelchair and a cane because of a knee ailment, is due to visit Lac Ste. Anne, a pilgrimage site about 70 km (44 miles) west of Edmonton popular with both indigenous Canadian Catholics and those of European origin.