Pope Francis has formally apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

The Pope issued the apology to Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates during the last of this week’s meetings on Friday.

He said he was “deeply grieved” by the stories he heard from delegates, particularly stories related to the residential school system.

He said he felt “sorrow and shame for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, and the abuses you suffered and the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture, and even your spiritual values.”

“I ask for God’s forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart: I am very sorry.”

In a press conference following the meeting, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed, who led the Inuit delegation, said that the apology was “long overdue,” and that “individual survivors and intergenerational survivors all will have very different feelings and perspectives about today.”

“A heartfelt expression from the Church that was delivered by Pope Francis in an empathetic and caring way.”

He said he was “touched by the way in which he expressed his sorrow, and also the ways in which he condemned the actions of the Church in particular regards.”

“There is much more to do, and so an apology is part of a much larger picture.”

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