Bishop hopes Pope will issue residential schools apology in future
The Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon says he remains “hopeful” that Pope Francis will one day travel to Canada to apologize to residential school survivors and their families for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in operating residential schools and for the abuse suffered by the schools’ students.
A papal apology was No. 58 of the 94 recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The commission recommended an apology similar to that offered by the Pope to Irish victims of sexual abuse in 2010. In 2015, Pope Francis issued an apology in Bolivia to Indigenous peoples in the Americas for the “grave sins” of colonialism.
Instead, Bishop Lionel Gendron, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, on Tuesday released a letter to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada saying Pope Francis has not shied away from acknowledging injustices faced by Indigenous peoples around the world, but that he can’t personally issue an apology for residential schools.
“I recognize that the recent letter to the Indigenous Peoples (of ) Canada from the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is a disappointment to many people in our community,” Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen wrote in a statement. “I too regret that Pope Francis is not coming at this time. I think we remain hopeful that the fulfillment of Call to Action number 58 may still happen sometime in the future.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is Catholic, said he was disappointed by the Pope’s decision, stressing that reconciliation extends beyond the relationship between the government and Indigenous people. During a visit to the Vatican last year, Trudeau personally asked the Pope to consider such a gesture.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, also a Catholic, said all institutions that played a significant role in the residential school system should apologize in order to move Canada forward on the path of reconciliation.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement that he has written to Pope Francis urging him to come to Canada and meet Indigenous peoples. He is also seeking a direct meeting with the Pope to discuss the issue further.
“Hearing an apology directly from Pope Francis would be an important act of healing and reconciliation, much like his apology delivered to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas in 2015,” Bellegarde said.
Acknowledging “those who are disappointed” that the Pope will not travel to Canada and apologize, Hagemoen said the Saskatoon church “continues to strive to listen, to build bridges together, and to undertake awareness and reconciliation through a range of initiatives and encounters. These include education, treaty awareness, initiatives regarding justice and healing, praying and celebrating together.”