Pope Apologizes for 'Deplorable Evil' After Mass Graves Found at Schools

Pope Francis recently traveled to Canada and apologized to the nation's Indigenous community for "deplorable evil" on Monday after mass graves were found under several schools.

"I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the Church and of religious communities cooperated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools," Pope Francis said during a speech to Canada's Indigenous population. "In the face of this deplorable evil, the Church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children."

The pope continued, "I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples."

Pope Francis
Pope Francis apologized to members of Canada's Indigenous population on Monday. Above, Pope Francis is wheeled out front of the site of the former Ermineskin Residential School during his visit on July 25, in Maskwacis, Alberta. Cole Burston/Getty

The pope's remarks comes roughly a year after mass graves were found at several residential schools in Canada. The schools were the graves were found were reportedly previously operated by the Catholic Church and Indigenous children were forced to attend them.

According to the Associated Press, up until 1970, over 150,000 Indigenous children were ordered to attend these residential schools that were run by the Catholic Church and funded by Canada, in order to isolate them from their Indigenous culture.

The AP reported that Canada's government previously admitted that many of the Indigenous children who attended these residential schools were sexually abused and hundreds of unmarked graves were found at many of the school locations.

When the unmarked mass graves were discovered last year, Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the incidents a "cultural genocide," prompting Pope Francis to issue an apology.

In April, Pope Francis issued a similar apology in which he said, "For the deplorable conduct of those 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. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon," the AP reported.

In addition to the pope, the Canadian government also issued an apology to the nation's Indigenous community.

In a series of tweets after his speech, Pope Francis made similar remarks, writing, "I ask forgiveness for the ways in which many members of the Church cooperated in those projects of cultural destruction and assimilation stipulated by the government, which culminated in the system of residential schools."

Newsweek reached out to the Vatican for further comment.

While speaking with the AP prior to the pope's speech on Monday, Grand Chief George Arcand Jr. of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations said, "Right now, many of our people are skeptical and they are hurt."

Chief Randy Ermineskin of the Ermineskin Cree Nation made similar remarks while speaking with the AP, saying, "My late family members are not here with us anymore, my parents went to residential school, I went to residential school.… I know they're with me, they're listening, they're watching."