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 traumatized by the shocking news.”
“The sad discovery further increases understanding of the pain and suffering of the past,” the Pope said. (Read: Pope Francis Expresses Grief Over Brutal Attacks in West Africa)
“These difficult times 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,” he added.
The Pope then issued an appeal to political and religious authorities of Canada to continue the investigations on this sad event and to commit themselves to a path of reconciliation and healing.
“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 Pope said.
Kamloops Indian Residential School
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. (Read: Pope Appeals for Peace and Reconciliation in Eastern Ukraine)
Last month, Canadian authorities used ground-penetrating radar to discover unmarked graves of up to 215 indigenous children at the old residential school.
The shocking discovery prompted the public’s call for full-fledged investigations into the circumstances and responsibilities surrounding these deaths, including forensic examinations of the remains found. Authorities are also being urged to identify and register the missing children.
Canada started the Residential School system in the 1880s with the aim of assimilating indigenous children. For more than 150 years, the system forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes. It was run by the government and various Christian Churches.