Pope Francis arrived in Edmonton on Sunday, July 24 from Rome to apologize to Indigenous First Nations for the wrongdoings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The church, along with the federal government, played a key role in residential schools, which more than 150,000 Indigenous people were forced to attend — a policy designed for “cultural destruction” and ‘forced assimilation.”

The two-day tour of the Edmonton area, complete with tight security, included stops at Maskwacis Park, Sacred Heart First Nation People’s Church and Commonwealth Stadium, where 60,000 spectators anxiously awaited a glimpse of the pontiff. The pope’s final apology took place at the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site, where thousands awaited his arrival.

During Pope Francis’s apology, many people were touched and every tour was filled with emotional pain. He spoke in Spanish during his apology and stated that “forgetfulness leads to indifference.” Remembering the devastation in residential schools across Canada may result in pain and anger, but “it is necessary,” he said.

The pope also addressed in his speech to Indigenous peoples in attendance “the heavy burdens you share, that I am deeply pray (for), and I ask for your forgiveness.”

A press conference, with the Confederation of Treaty 6 chiefs in attendance, was held at the elementary school in Maskwacis.

Pope Francis departed Edmonton on July 27 to fly to Ste. Anne de Beaupre, Que., and then to Iqaluit on July 29.

-By Margaret McKay

Pope Francis greets the crowds outside Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton on the afternoon of July 25. Margaret McKay/NNSL photo

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