Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Pope will reach out to natives in Canada

Pope will reach out to natives in Canada

Plans to express regret for abuses in schools
Apr 15, 2009 04:30 AM


Pope Benedict XVI will express regret to Canada's aboriginal peoples this
month for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the abuse of thousands
of children in residential schools, says the leader of the Assembly of
First Nations.

"We're expecting a clear statement from the Pope recognizing the suffering
of the aboriginal people of Canada and the role of the Catholic Church in
that suffering," assembly chief Phil Fontaine told La Presse yesterday.
"This will be a historic moment for aboriginals, survivors of residential
schools, and for Canadian society."

It is unknown whether the Pope will issue a formal apology, however, said
a spokesperson for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"We know the Pope will produce a text in which he will express his
solicitude, recognize what has occurred and manifest regret," Gérald Baril

Fontaine, himself a survivor of abuse at two residential schools, will
lead an aboriginal delegation to Rome for an audience with the Pope on
April 29. He expects the pontiff to issue a public statement after the
meeting, which will also include a number of Canadian bishops.

"The relationship between the First Nations of Canada and the Catholic
Church has been stained by the actions of the past. This meeting with the
Pope will allow the process of reconciliation to begin," Fontaine said.

An estimated 150,000 aboriginal children were forced into Canada's Indian
residential schools between 1920 and the 1970s, and many were subjected to
physical and sexual abuse.

Nearly three-quarters of the schools were run by Catholic Church
missionary congregations.

The United, Anglican and Presbyterian churches have apologized for their
roles in the abuse. Last June, the Canadian government apologized for the
residential schools system, and for the policy of aggressive assimilation
that they represented.

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