Pope says indigenous children were massacred in Canadian church schools.

Pope Francis holds a news conference aboard the papal plane on July 29, 2022, after returning from a visit to Canada. – Reuters
  • The Pope comments on his way back to Rome after his visit to Canada.
  • A visit to Canada makes a historical apology for the church’s role in policy.
  • Says they condemn “taking children and trying to change their culture, their minds, their traditions, a generation, an entire culture.”

Pope Francis said Saturday that what happened in the residential schools that the Roman Catholic and other Christian churches ran to forcefully integrate Canada’s indigenous children was genocide.

The pope made the comments on his way back to Rome after a week-long visit to Canada, where he offered a historic apology for the church’s role in politics.

He was asked by a local Canadian reporter on the plane why he did not use the word genocide during the trip, and whether he would accept that church members participated in the genocide.

“It’s true that I didn’t use the word because I didn’t think about it. But I did describe genocide. I apologized, I apologized for the activity,” Francis said. That was genocide,” Francis said.

“I condemned it, taking children and trying to change their culture, their minds, their traditions, a generation, an entire culture,” the Pope added.

Between 1881 and 1996, more than 150,000 indigenous children were separated from their families and brought to residential schools. Many children were starved, beaten and sexually abused in a system that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called “cultural genocide”.

Schools were run by religious groups for governments, most of whom were Catholic priests and nuns.

“Yes, genocide is a technical word but I didn’t use it because I didn’t think about it, but I stated…. Yes, it is a genocide, yes, yes, clear. You can say I said it was. A genocide,” he said.

Last Monday, Francis visited the town of Moscow, the site of two former residential schools, where he apologized and called the forced integration “evil” and a “catastrophic mistake.” Read the full story.

He also apologized for Christian support for the “colonial mentality” of the times.

The Pope apologized again as the tour ended in Canada’s north.