In his first public remarks in Canada, Pope Francis has asked indigenous residential school survivors for forgiveness.
“I am deeply sorry,” the Pope said on the grounds of a former residential school in Maskwacis, near Edmonton.
He said his apology is a first step, and that a “serious investigation” into abuses must occur to foster healing.
The pontiff is in Canada to apologize for the Church’s role in schools meant to assimilate indigenous children.
The government-funded schools were part of a policy meant to destroy indigenous cultures and languages.
The papal apology was received by applause from survivors in the audience, some of whom traveled far to hear the Pope speak.
Pope Francis expressed “sorrow, indignation and shame” for the actions of many members of the Roman Catholic Church, who ran and operated majority of residential schools in Canada.
The 85-year-old Pope called the schools system a “disastrous error” and asked for forgiveness “for the evil committed by so many Christians” against indigenous peoples.
Bruce Allan, a survivor of one of the residential schools who was in attendance, said it was emotional to hear the Pope’s apology, but many are still looking for action from the pontiff.
The Pope said he traveled to Canada with a small pair of moccasins gifted to him by an indigenous delegation in the Vatican earlier in the year.