Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his pain for “the shocking discovery in Canada of the remains of 215 children, pupils of the Kamloops Indian Residential School, in the province of British Columbia.”
Speaking after the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the pope said he “joins the Canadian Bishops and the whole Catholic Church in Canada in expressing his closeness to the Canadian people, who have been traumatised by the shocking news.”
The pope went on to say: “the sad discovery further increases understanding of the pain and suffering of the past” and he issued an appeal to political and religious authorities of Canada “to continue to work together with determination to shed light on this sad event and to commit themselves humbly to a path of reconciliation and healing.”
“These difficult times,” he added, “are a strong call for all of us to turn away from the colonial model and from, ideological colonisations, and to walk side by side in dialogue, mutual respect and recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada.”
Pope Francis ended with an appeal for prayers saying “We commend to the Lord the souls of all the children who died in Canada’s Residential Schools and we pray for the grieving families and communities of indigenous Canadians.”
The Residential School system forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes. Run by the government and various Christian Churches, their stated aim was to assimilate indigenous children. The discovery last month of unmarked graves of up to 215 Indigenous children at the Kamloops Indian Residential Schools was made using ground-penetrating radar. Authorities have been urged to conduct full-fledged investigations into the circumstances and responsibilities surrounding these deaths, including forensic examinations of the remains found, and to proceed to the identification and registration of the missing children.
The Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia was operated by the Catholic church on behalf of Ottawa from 1890 to 1969, before being permanently closed in 1978.
Picture: Children’s shoes line a memorial on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after the remains of 215 children, some as young as three years-old, were found at the site in May in Kamloops, British Columbia. (CNS photo/Jennifer Gauthier, Reuters)