‘I want to tell you how sorry I am’: Pope’s speech in Iqaluit comes close to earlier apology

Pope Francis issued another apology on Friday, this time to Inuit survivors of residential schools, as he ended his five-day visit to Canada with a brief stopover in Iqaluit.

Speaking to a crowd outside a local elementary school, the pope’s comments were closely tied to statements he had made earlier in the week about the church’s role in the residential school system.

Referring to “the outrage and shame I’ve felt for months,” the pope also recalled a private meeting he had just had with survivors of Inuit residential schools in Iqaluit. He thanked them for their courage to share their “great suffering”.

But he stopped short of apologizing for the church as a whole and its troubled history.

A woman hugs another person during the community event for Pope Francis outside Nakasuk Primary School. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“I want to tell you how sorry I am and ask for forgiveness for the evil perpetrated by many Catholics who have contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation and emancipation in these schools,” he said.

The first Catholic church mission was built in the eastern Canadian Arctic in 1912, at Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, on the western shore of Hudson Bay. The community was later the site of Turquetil Hall, a Catholic residence for Inuit students, many of whom had been sent to school from afar. Other Inuit children from the eastern Arctic were sent to Grollier Hall, another Catholic-run facility in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

Numerous cases of physical and sexual abuse have been documented at both locations.

Pope Francis’ comments in Iqaluit no longer directly referred to residential school abuse. Instead, he focused on the policies of forced separation of children from their parents and the legacy of broken families.

WATCH: Pope Francis asks for forgiveness in Iqaluit:

I want to tell you how sorry I am

In Iqaluit, the Pope asks for forgiveness for the evil perpetrated in the residential schools

After meeting with residential school survivors Friday in Iqaluit, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the “evil perpetrated by many Catholics” who contributed to cultural assimilation policies. The pope added that hearing the stories of survivors “renewed in me the indignation and shame I had felt for months.”

“Stories like these don’t just cause us pain, they also create outrage,” he said.

“How wrong it is to break the ties that unite parents and children, to damage our closest relationships, to harm and scandalize the little ones!”

He also said that he came to the capital of Nunavut with the “desire to continue together on a journey of healing and reconciliation which, with the help of the Creator, can help us shed light on what has happened. past and to go beyond this dark past”.

The pope also reflected on the resilience of Inuit culture and the “beautiful relationship” between Inuit and the environment. Many people would view the Arctic as inhospitable, he said, but the Inuit have come to “respect, cherish and improve” their lands.

I want to tell you how sorry I am Popes
A woman, left, prays during a community event for Pope Francis outside Nakasuk Elementary School in Iqaluit on July 29, 2022. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

He also referred to the qulliq, a traditional seal oil lamp used for both heat and light.

“Even today, this lamp remains a beautiful symbol of life, of a luminous way of life that does not yield to the darkness of the night,” he said.

“That’s what you are, an eternal testimony to life that never ends, a shining light that no one could put out.”

The pope’s four-hour visit to Iqaluit on Friday marked the end of his self-proclaimed “pilgrimage of penance” this week. The papal plane left the Iqaluit airport just after 8 p.m. ET, returning to Rome.


Support is available for anyone affected by residential schools and those triggered by the latest reports.

The Indian Residential School Survivor Society (IRSSS) can be contacted toll free at 1-800-721-0066.

A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional referral and crisis services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

Additionally, the NWT Helpline offers free support to residents of the Northwest Territories, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s 100% free and confidential. The NWT Helpline also offers an option for follow-up calls. Residents can call the helpline at 1-800-661-0844.

In Nunavut, the Kamatsiaqtut Helpline is open 24 hours a day at 1-800-265-3333. People are welcome to call for any reason.

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