Deep Dive: The painful history of the Catholic Church in Canada

By Colleen Dulle, 25 July 2022
Pope Francis with a delegation from the Métis Nation during an audience at the Vatican. Image: Vatican News


Pope Francis’ highly anticipated visit to Canada begins July 24, when he will meet first with Indigenous leaders, rather than with the Canadian government or bishops. The visit is, primarily, one to the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, who hope that the pope will apologize on Indigenous lands for the abuses perpetrated in Catholic-run residential schools.

In a special deep-dive episode of “Inside the Vatican” from America, residential school survivors, church leaders and a historian explain how and why Catholic religious orders like the Oblates of Mary Immaculate partnered with the Canadian government to operate schools that forcibly removed Indigenous children from the care of their parents—which flew in the face of Catholic teaching on the importance of the family—and aimed, as Canada’s Department of Indian affairs once put it, to “Kill the Indian; save the man.”

In 2021, the Canadian bishops finally issued their apology as a body, and they announced the visit of a delegation to Rome to meet with Pope Francis.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton recalls the visit: “He [the pope] spent in the space of a few days, four hours with the various delegates, just listening and listening. That’s all he did.” On the last day, the pope spoke: “For the deplorable conduct of those members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness, and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry, and I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon.”

Listen to the full podcast episode below via Spotify:

To continue reading this article, click here.

Colleen Dulle is an associate editor at America and co-hosts the “Inside the Vatican” podcast. Ricardo da Silva, S.J., and Maggi Van Dorn contributed to this report.

With thanks to America and Colleen Dulle, where this article originally appeared.


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