Los Angeles Times

Pope gives final apology of Canadian tour

Francis travels to edge of Arctic to meet with Indigenous residentia­l school survivors.

- By Nicole Winfield and Rob Gillies Associated Press writers Winfield and Gillies reported from Iqaluit and Quebec City, respective­ly.

IQALUIT, Canada — Pope Francis traveled to the edge of the Arctic on Friday to deliver an apology to the Inuit people for the “evil” of Canada’s residentia­l schools, wrapping up his weeklong “penitentia­l pilgrimage” to Canada with a dramatic visit to the remote territory of Nunavut to meet with school survivors.

Francis landed in Iqaluit, population 7,500, and met with former students at a primary school to hear firsthand their experience­s of being torn from their families and forced to attend church-run, government­funded boarding schools. The aim of the policy, which was in effect from the late 1800s to the 1970s, was to sever children from their Native cultures and assimilate them into Canadian, Christian society.

“How evil it is to break the bonds uniting parents and children, to damage our closest relationsh­ips, to harm and scandalize the little ones,” Francis told a gathering of Inuit youths and elders outside the school.

He thanked the school survivors for their courage in sharing their suffering, which he had heard for the first time this spring when delegation­s of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples traveled to the Vatican to seek an apology.

“This only renewed in me the indignatio­n and shame that I have felt for months,” Francis said. “I want to tell you how very sorry I am and to ask for forgivenes­s for the evil perpetrate­d by not a few Catholics who contribute­d to the policies of cultural assimilati­on and enfranchis­ement in those schools.”

The visit capped an unusual tour designed to give the pope opportunit­ies to apologize to generation­s of Native peoples for abuses and injustices they suffered and to assure them he was committed to helping them reconcile their relationsh­ip with the Catholic Church. After stops in Edmonton, Alberta, and Quebec City, Francis ended his pilgrimage in Nunavut, a vast territory straddling the Arctic Circle that represents the farthest north the Argentine pope has ever traveled.

The Canadian government has said physical and sexual abuse were rampant at the residentia­l schools, and Francis on Thursday begged forgivenes­s for the “evil” of clergy sexual abuse, vowing an “irreversib­le commitment” to prevent it from happening again. His vow came after he omitted a reference to sexual abuse in his initial apology this week, upsetting some survivors and earning a complaint from the Canadian government.

Francis’ apologies have received a mixed response, with some school survivors welcoming them as helpful to their healing and others saying far more needs to be done to correct past wrongs and pursue justice.

The Inuit community, for example, is seeking Vatican assistance to extradite an Oblate priest, the Rev. Joannes Rivoire, who ministered to Inuit communitie­s until he left in the 1990s and returned to France. Canadian authoritie­s issued an arrest warrant for him in 1998 on accusation­s of several counts of sexual abuse, but it has never been served.

The Canadian government said this week that it had asked France to extradite Rivoire, but it did not say when. Rivoire has denied wrongdoing.

Francis heard from survivors in a private meeting, including a woman whose daughter died at a residentia­l school; the woman and her husband have been searching for her grave for years. Another speaker was the daughter of one of Rivoire’s victims, who died after years of alcohol abuse, said Lieve Halsberghe, an advocate for clergy abuse victims who has long fought to bring Rivoire to justice.

The Inuit warmly welcomed Francis to their homeland and lighted a ceremonial lamp, or qulliq, for the occasion. Francis referred to its symbolic significan­ce in his remarks, saying it dispelled the darkness and brought warmth.

“We are here with the desire to pursue together a journey of healing and reconcilia­tion that, with the help of the Creator, can help us shed light on what happened and move beyond that dark past,” he said.

Directing himself to younger generation­s, Francis urged them too to choose light rather than dark, to keep hopes alive, aim high and protect the environmen­t. He stressed the value of teamwork, recalling the successes of Canada’s beloved national sport of ice hockey.

Jimmy Lucassi, an Inuit from Iqaluit, was at the school grounds for Francis’ visit along with his wife and children. “It probably means a lot to a lot of people,” he said. “It’s all we’ve been talking about. They closed the stores to celebrate.”

The trip was the first in which the 85-year-old pope had to use a wheelchair, walker and cane because of painful strained knee ligaments that forced him to cancel a trip to Africa earlier this month. Even with a reduced schedule, the trip was clearly uncomforta­ble for Francis and he has said he felt “limited” by his inability to freely move about.

Future travel is not clear. Francis has said he wants to visit Kyiv, Ukraine, but no trip is immediatel­y on the horizon. He is also expected in Kazakhstan in mid-September for an interrelig­ious meeting that might provide an opportunit­y to meet with the Russian Patriarch Kirill, who has justified Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Reaction to Francis’ visit to Canada has been mixed, with even the government saying his apology didn’t go far enough in accepting blame for the institutio­nal role the Catholic Church played in supporting the school policy.

Some school survivors have accepted his apology as genuine and helpful to their process of healing. Others have found it still wanting, angered that it took the discovery of presumed unmarked graves outside some residentia­l schools for the pope to apologize after Canada’s Truth and Reconcilia­tion Commission in 2015 called for a papal apology to be delivered on Canadian soil.

Still others have demanded that the church provide further informatio­n about the fate of children who never returned home from the schools and that it repudiate the 15th century papal bulls that informed the so-called Doctrine of Discovery, which legitimize­d the colonial-era seizure of Native lands for the sake of spreading Christiani­ty.

It is unlikely the Vatican itself would hold records concerning the fate of Indigenous children who died at the schools, though it would have documentat­ion on any priests who faced canonical penalties after 2001, and possibly some before then.

 ?? Gregorio Borgia Associated Press ?? POPE FRANCIS meets with members of the Inuit community in Iqaluit, Canada, on Friday. The pope spent a week traveling Canada on a “penitentia­l pilgrimage” to atone for abuses at church-run residentia­l schools.
Gregorio Borgia Associated Press POPE FRANCIS meets with members of the Inuit community in Iqaluit, Canada, on Friday. The pope spent a week traveling Canada on a “penitentia­l pilgrimage” to atone for abuses at church-run residentia­l schools.

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