Pope apologizes to Indigenous people of Canada

Delegates also urged Francis to take a to revoke the papal bull issued in 1493 that had given Spain authority over the newly discovered lands of the Americas, allowing the Spanish to colonize and enslave the indigenous peoples and convert them to Catholicism. The papal bull that shaped the “doctrine of discovery” was “used for centuries to expropriate indigenous lands and facilitate their transfer to colonizing or dominant nations,” according to the United Nations.

Indigenous groups in Canada say the theories of racial superiority underlying the doctrine have long been discredited, but until 2014 it surfaced in overland lawsuits. Canada’s Supreme Court ruled that year, without naming the papal bull, that the idea that no one owned land until claimed by Europeans “never applied in Canada.”

Bishop William T. McGrattan, the vice president of the Canadian Bishops’ Conference, said Friday afternoon that Canadian bishops had refuted the doctrine and offered a 2016 pastoral letter denouncing it. Discussions on the issue are ongoing at various bishops’ conferences around the world, he added, and the Vatican is “studying these particular responses.”

Phil Fontaine, another delegate and former boarder who, as national leader of the First Nations Assembly, first traveled to the Vatican in 2009 to meet Pope Benedict XVI. to ask for an apology, said this visit was decidedly different. Pope Francis seems to show a real commitment “to putting things right, to improve the lives of our people,” he said.

The apology won’t heal every survivor, but it will open a door, Ms. Caron said. “Survivors are at different stages of the healing journey,” she said. “Some have turned away from the church and say they don’t need an apology to heal, but for others it was very necessary.”

“It changes the direction in which we continue to move,” Ms Caron added.

The church softened its stance on the apology last year after three indigenous groups announced that ground-penetrating radar had detected signs of many hundreds of unmarked graves containing human remains, mostly those of children.

Chief Antoine, the Dene national chief, said that the indigenous people of Canada are looking forward to the Pope’s visit and that he hoped they would be “active partners” in planning and determining the places Francis would travel to. “Why? Because it’s our home,” he said. “And our family has to be involved.”

Elisabetta Povoledo reported from Vatican City, and Ian Austen from Ottawa. Pope apologizes to Indigenous people of Canada

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