Canadian government says Pope Francis apology over church abuses does not go far enough

The Canadian government said on Wednesday that Pope Francis’s apology to indegenous people in the country did not go far enough.

The statement comes just days after the 85-year-old pontiff arrived in the indigenous community of Maskwacis, Alberta, on Monday, where he delivered a long-sought apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s “residential school” system.

An estimated 150,000 kids were separated from their families at the schools between 1883 and the 1970s.

Indigenous children were brutally forced to assimilate in these schools and often became the subject of neglect and physical and sexual abuse.

Catholic orders operated 66 of the 139 government-funded residential schools, the sites of what Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has deemed a “cultural genocide.”

The Canadian government said on Wednesday that reconciliation over troubled history is still work in progress, reported Associated Press.

“I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” the pope said to the crowd at Maskwacis on Monday.

“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,” he added.

Earlier the Indigenous peoples had demanded that the pope should assume responsibility for abuses committed by individual Catholic priests and religious orders as well as the Catholic Church’s institutional support of the assimilation policy.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau on Monday spoke before the pope and said that that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 had called for a papal apology to be delivered on Canadian soil.

He added that the pope’s visit “would not have been possible without the courage and perseverance” of survivors of First Nations, Inuit and Metis who traveled to the Vatican last spring to press their case for an apology.

Several members of the indegenous people as well as school survivors have noted that the pope’s apology had gaps.

Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said that while the pope spoke of “evil” committed by individual Christians “but not the Catholic Church as an institution.”

Arriving in Quebec City on Wednesday the pope said that he committed himself and the local Canadian church to “move forward on a fraternal and patient journey with all Canadians, in accordance with truth and justice, working for healing and reconciliation, and constantly inspired by hope.”

According to the prime minister, the pope’s visit was a first step.

“It’s our responsibility to see our differences not as an obstacle but as an occasion to learn, to better,” he was quoted as saying.

(Additional reporting by agencies)