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Pope says treatment of Canada Indigenous people was genocide

Comments come after a six-day trip where he apologized to survivors of abuse at Catholic-run schools, who were cut off from families, language and culture

Pope Francis prays in a cemetery at the former residential school, in Maskwacis, near Edmonton, Canada, Monday, July 25, 2022. Pope Francis crisscrossed Canada this week delivering long overdue apologies to the country's Indigenous groups for the decades of abuses and cultural destruction they suffered at Catholic Church-run residential schools. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
Pope Francis prays in a cemetery at the former residential school, in Maskwacis, near Edmonton, Canada, Monday, July 25, 2022. Pope Francis crisscrossed Canada this week delivering long overdue apologies to the country's Indigenous groups for the decades of abuses and cultural destruction they suffered at Catholic Church-run residential schools. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — Pope Francis on Saturday said the treatment of Indigenous people in Canada amounted to a genocide, after a six-day trip where he apologized to survivors of abuse at Catholic-run schools.

“I didn’t say the word [in Canada] because it didn’t come to my mind, but I did describe the genocide. And I asked for forgiveness for this process which was genocide. I condemned it too,” he told reporters on board his plane returning to Rome.

“Taking away children, changing the culture, changing the mentality, changing the traditions, changing a race, let’s put it that way, a whole culture.

“Yes, genocide is [a] technical word… But I have described what is, indeed, a genocide. ”

During his trip, the pope apologized for the “evil” inflicted on Indigenous communities at Canada’s residential schools, where children were sent as part of a policy of forced assimilation.

He cited the “cultural destruction” and the “physical, verbal, psychological and spiritual abuse” of children over decades.

From the late 1800s to the 1990s, Canada’s government sent about 150,000 children into 139 residential schools run by the Church, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture.

People protest as they wait for a meeting with Pope Francis at Nakasuk Elementary School Square in Iqaluit, Canada, Friday, July 29, 2022. Pope Francis travels to chilly Iqaluit, capital of northern Nunavut, to meet with Inuit Indigenous people, including school children and survivors of residential schools, on his final day in Canada. (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)

Many were physically and sexually abused, and thousands are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

Since May 2021, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered at the sites of the former schools, sending shockwaves throughout Canada — which has slowly begun to acknowledge this long, dark chapter in its history.

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