Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that he had asked the pope to come to Canada to apologize for the role of the Catholic Church in running home schools for indigenous children, as nearly 1,000 bodies were found in two mass graves.
“I have personally spoken directly to Our Lady of Pope Francis to urge him how important it is not just to apologize, but to apologize to Native Canadians on Canadian soil,” Trudau told reporters in Ottawa.
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“I know that the leadership of the Catholic Church is actively seeking and participating in what next steps can be taken.”
The Cowessess First Nation said Thursday that about 751 unmarked graves were found at the site of the Marieval Housing School in Saskatchewan, just weeks after 215 unmarked graves were discovered at a former British Columbian school.
The school housing system, which operated between 1831 and 1996, removed some 150,000 indigenous children from their families and brought them to Christian housing schools, mostly catholic, operating on behalf of the federal government.
A federal commission report found that the school housing system was a cultural genocide for Indigenous Canadians.
“I have heard directly from many Catholics in this country who want to see the church play a positive role in this,” Trudeau added.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis stopped for an immediate apology, but said he was saddened by the discovery of the remains of 215 children and called for respect for the rights and cultures of indigenous peoples.