The pope during his visit to the Notre-Dame de Québec basilica.
“I have apologized, asked for forgiveness for this process which is genocide,” Pope Francis told media Friday, citing abuses suffered by indigenous peoples as they were forced to attend residential schools.
The sovereign pontiff made this statement on board the plane returning to Rome after a six-day tour of Canada.
The pope apologized several times during the week for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the institutions. He asked for forgiveness for the abuses committed by some members of the Church as well as for the cultural destruction and forced assimilation.
That is not enough for some Indigenous people who have expressed disappointment that the pope did not name the crimes and abuses that boarders and survivors suffered. They also criticized him for not using the term “genocide”.
However, when asked if he would use it from now on, Francis said answered yes.
“Abducting children, changing their culture, their mindset, their traditions – changing a race, an entire culture , yes, I use the word ''genocide''.
In its 2015 report, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called residential schools a form of cultural genocide. Since then, indigenous groups believe that it is indeed a genocide.
Manitoba NDP MP Leah Gazan tabled a motion in the House of Commons last year calling on the federal government to recognize what happened at the residential schools as genocide, but she doesn't. ;did not obtain unanimous consent.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls also concluded that violence against women and girls was a form of genocide.
Physical and sexual abuse and neglect were rampant in schools, despite the Catholic Church running 60% of schools.
Asked about the Doctrine of Discovery or official statements to justify the colonization of the Americas, the pope replied: Colonization is wrong. It's unfair.
Let us be aware that colonization is not over. The same colonization is also there today, added the sovereign pontiff.
Pope Francis during a press conference aboard the plane returning him to Rome after his tour of Canada.
At 85, weakened by knee pain forcing him to move around in a wheelchair, the pope told journalists that he should reduce the pace of his movements.
To relieve his knee pain, the pope regularly receives infiltrations and undergoes physiotherapy sessions, according to the Vatican. However, he ruled out the possibility of surgery, as he still has after-effects from the anesthesia he underwent in July 2021 during his colon operation.
The sovereign pontiff once had part of a lung removed in his youth and he suffers from chronic sciatica.
The pope has also mentioned the possibility of standing aside.
“I have to spare myself so that I can serve the Church, or on the contrary think about the possibility of putting myself aside.
In all honesty, this is not a disaster. We can change popes. That's no problem. I believe that I have to limit myself a little, with these efforts, added the sovereign pontiff.
Until today, I have not pushed that door. As they say, I didn't feel it, but that doesn't mean the day after tomorrow I won't start thinking about it, he confided.
In 2013, Pope Benedict XVI left office, explaining that his strength and advanced age were no longer compatible with the exercise of his role.
He was the third pope to resign in the history of the Catholic Church. Before him, Gregory XII had abdicated in July 1415, and Celestine V in December 1294.
With information from La Presse canadienne, and Agence France-Presse