Pope Francis on Monday asked forgiveness for the "evil" induced on the native people of Canada on the first day of a stay concentrated on expressing decades of mishandling at Catholic-run residential academies. The request for grace from the leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics was convened with cheering by a mob of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people in Maskwacis, in western Alberta province – some of whom were snatched from their families as children in what has been seared as a "cultural genocide .
" I am apologetic," said the 85-year-old pontiff, who conveyed his sermon at the site of one of the largest of Canada's popular residential schools, where Indigenous kids were taken as part of a program of involuntary assimilation. "I beg for forgiveness for the sin perpetrated by so many Christians against the natives," confessed the pope, referring to "cultural destruction" and the "physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse" of pupils over decades. As he talked, the sentiment was discernible in Maskwacis, an Indigenous congregation south of Edmonton that was the locale of the Ermineskin residential school until it shut down in 1975.
Several hundred people were in attendance, along with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Simon, the country's foremost Indigenous governor-general. Many lowered their eyes with embarrassment, wiped away tears, or bent on and caressed neighbors, and Indigenous administrators afterward positioned a conventional feathered headdress on the pope. Counselors were staying to deliver assistance to those who may require it, and apprentices had earlier disseminated small paper backpacks for the "collection of tears."