Canada: pope asks Indigenous Peoples for forgiveness

Pope Francis has apologised to Canada's Indigenous Peoples for the mistreatment of their children in Catholic residential schools. The Canadian government acknowledged decades of physical and sexual abuse in the country's residential schools and in 2008 promised some 14 billion euros in compensation to Indigenous communities. How significant is the pope's gesture?

Open/close all quotes
Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

An important gesture

Tygodnik Powszechny stresses the importance of the pope's trip:

“Pope Francis's most difficult and perhaps most important foreign visit is underway. He himself describes it as 'a penitential pilgrimage'. It is an unprecedented trip - because the goal is reconciliation. The pope has flown to Canada to do penance on behalf of the entire Catholic Church.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

The Church was to blame

The Frankfurter Rundschau complains that Pope Francis did not dig deeper than the confessional formulas of his predecessors, according to which only "members of the Church" committed evil deeds:

“As if the conditions in the residential schools and their chumminess with the state had nothing to do with the Church itself. As an institution it did not stand where it should have stood: on the side of the weak. Instead it got into bed with the people in power. And relativising the abuse by referring to the 'conditions of the time' only makes it worse. Torturing children, sexually abusing them and letting them starve - all this has never been something that representatives of the Church should have done or allowed if they took their own messages seriously.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Sorry is not enough

For NRC Handelsblad the public apology must be followed by concrete measures:

“The Catholic Church has so far paid only a fraction of the compensation it has promised. All archives must be opened and access granted to the registers and documents the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada needs to thoroughly investigate the fate of all the children who never returned. ... If Pope Francis really wants to put an end to this historical pattern of denial, concealment and turning a blind eye, then his public penance must include the immediate acknowledgement of the suffering. ... Justice, compensation and above all transparency.”