The Pope has reiterated his apology for abuses committed by the Catholic Church in Canada against young survivors of church schools in the country, in an address to a crowd in Iqaluit, the territory of the Inuit in the Polar Circle.
“I want to tell you how sorry I am,” Pope Francis lamented in his final encounter on his five-day trip to Canada, which has featured private meetings with survivors as well as public performances by traditional singers and musicians, including traditional throat singing and drum dancing.
The Pope delivered his speech in Spanish, which was then translated into English and Inuktitut. He also asked for forgiveness in the Inuit language.
“I thank you for having had the courage to tell your stories and share your great suffering that I could not imagine,” he said. He also added that “this only renewed” his “indignation and the shame he had felt for months,” the newspaper ‘The Globe and Mail’ reported.
In addition to apologizing for the “evil perpetrated by not a few Catholics,” the Pope encouraged the young people he addressed to “take the reins of their freedom, not to be afraid to make strong decisions, and to go every day towards the light,” Vatican News reported.
When the Pope has finished his speech, some of the attendees applauded and were moved, while part of the crowd showed protest banners, has reported the television channel CBC News.
Still, the trip to Iqaluit is the first papal visit to this territory, thus marking a turning point in the region’s relations with the Catholic Church.
“I’m very happy that Pope Francis can come here and I’m happy to be able to see this,” Ooleepika Veevee told CBC News, before adding that “he came all the way from Rome to apologize.”
Attendees at the rally reminded the Pope of the “intergenerational trauma” of their relatives and neighbors. “They never talked about anything, about their experiences. Because they were hurting inside (…). Many who never went to a residential school are also affected by this,” Raigelee Alorut explained to the same TV channel.
Previously, Tanya Tungilik — daughter of Marius Tungilik, a victim of abuse in a Catholic residential school — had been among those who had met with the Pope.
In her case, Tungilik has told the story of her father, who died in 2012, who was one of the first survivors to publicly tell his story as a victim when he was a student the Joseph Bernier School in Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, with the goal of holding the Church accountable.
“The long-term effects of his alcoholism ended my father’s life. He died alone in his bed in December 2012. He was just 55 years old,” Tanya has recounted, noting that the reason for his death was due to the “reckless behavior of the Church, which led him to drink.”
Finally, Tanya has asked the Pope to identify and hand over those responsible to justice, as well as apologies and the opening of the archives to make the documents public, all with the aim of “achieving reconciliation with our people.”