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Pope, winding up Canada trip, visits historic churches

Pope, winding up Canada trip, visits historic churches

Reuters · 07/28/2022 07:00
Pope, winding up Canada trip, visits historic churches

By Philip Pullella

- Pope Francis on Thursday visits two of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in North America as he winds up a trip to Canada centred on his apology for the Catholic Church's role in the country's residential schools.

In the morning Francis presides at a Mass at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre in the town of the same about 30 km (19 miles) outside Quebec City.

The oldest Catholic pilgrimage site in North America stands on the site where a small church was built in 1658 to house a statue of St. Anne that French colonists considered miraculous.

About a million people visit each year, many seeking cures from illnesses.

In the afternoon, he presides at a vespers service in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Quebec City. It stands on the site where Samuel de Champlain, the French colonist and who founded Quebec and New France, built a chapel in 1633.

The visits to the two churches come on the penultimate day of his week-long visit to Canada, where he has several times issued apologies related to the schools, which operated between 1870 and 1996.

Shortly after his arrival in Quebec City on Wednesday, Francis met with Canada's leader, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon.

In public addresses in the Citadelle de Quebec, the largest British fortress built in North America, Trudeau and Simon

pointedly told him of the horrors of residential schools for indigenous that the Church ran for past governments.L1N2Z81V5

More than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools. They were starved or beaten for speaking their languages and sexually abused in a system that Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission called "cultural genocide".

"As a dad, I can’t imagine having my children being taken away. When my kids are crying, I can console them. When they’re happy, I can share that feeling of joy with them," Trudeau said.

"But in residential schools, these children were alone and isolated in their pain and sorrow, far from their families and communities. And even worse, stripped of their language, their culture, their identity," the prime minister said.

The pope said the Church was "admitting our faults" and wanted to join civil authorities "to promote the legitimate rights of the populations and to favor processes of healing and reconciliation" between indigenous and -indigenous Canadians.

On Monday, the pope traveled to the town of Maskwacis, the site of two former schools, and issued a historic apology that called the Church's role in the schools, and the forced cultural assimilation they attempted, a "deplorable evil" and "disastrous error".

On Tuesday, he said the Roman Catholic Church should accept institutional blame for the harm done to indigenous Canadians. L1N2Z71BZ

On his way back to Rome on Friday, he will stop for a few hours in Iqaluit in the Canadian Arctic, where the pope is expected to discuss the threat that climate change poses to indigenous communities.

(Additional reporting by Steve Scherer; Editing by Michael Perry)