top of page

Indignation and Shame: Pope Francis addresses Church Role in Residential Schools

It is the apology that some have waited a lifetime to hear, Pope Francis has publicly apologized for the church's role in the Canadian Residential School System which saw countless Indigenous and first nation children ripped from their parents.

Pope Francis said that the church failed in its role in Canadian history, "I have said this to you and Now I'm repeating it, sorrow and shame, for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values,

"All these things are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ," Pope Francis Added. "For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God's forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry. "

Francis told a group of First Nation members that this was the first step in the journey of healing and forging a new path together, "Dear brothers and sisters, it is my hope that our meetings in these days will point out new paths to be pursued together, instil courage and strength and lead to greater commitment on the local level.

"Any truly effective process of healing requires concrete actions," The pontiff added.

A public apology from the Church and Pope was one of the calls to actions outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Action Item Number 58 states, "We call upon the Pope to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. We call for that apology to be similar to the 2010 apology issued to Irish victims of abuse and to occur within one year of the issuing of this Report and to be delivered by the Pope in Canada."

Canada's First Indigenous Governor-General the Hon. Mary Simon said in a statement about Pope Francis' apology "The apology is one step on the road to reconciliation, but it is just that: one step. We must always strive to acknowledge the pain and the truth of our history. It’s about stories—my story, your story, our peoples’ stories. Hearing our truths will guide us on our path towards reconciliation.

"In Inuktitut, we say ajuinnata—a promise to never give up, to persevere. Let us all raise our voices, across Canada, in the spirit of ajuinnata, to build understanding, respect and reconciliation," she added.

The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Regional Chief Gerald Antoine, who led the AFN delegation in meetings with Pope Francis this week, said the apology offered by Pope Francis is a historic step to TRC Call to Action 58 and looks forward to hosting Pope Francis on Turtle Island, "The words ‘I am very sorry’ are for my mother who attended St. Anne’s institution and all who did not live to see this day, especially our little ones who lay in unmarked graves across Turtle Island,” said AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald. “This long overdue apology by the Pope is welcomed and we must work with urgency on the next steps on our healing path forward, which includes action on reparations and revoking the Doctrine of Discovery."


bottom of page