April 1, 2022 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

On April 1, 2022, another important step towards Truth and Reconciliation was taken. Following three days of meetings between Canadian Indigenous Peoples, Inuit Peoples and Metis Peoples and Pope Francis at the Vatican, the pope extended an apology regarding the Canadian residential school system.

In his statement, Pope Francis expressed shame and sorrow for the role that Catholics had in causing intergenerational suffering through abuse, and a lack of respect for identity, culture and spiritual values.

His statement: "For the deplorable conduct of these 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."

At King’s, as a Catholic university where we embrace a culture of open and honest dialogue between all peoples, and value difficult conversations, we recognize that the apology from the pope can be a step towards the Catholic church taking responsibility for and acknowledging the residential school system and its impacts on every Indigenous generation that has followed. The path towards Truth and Reconciliation has been adopted and supported by King’s. I ask our community to embrace the apology as we continue to listen and work towards creating Indigenous awareness and inclusion through curriculum, community outreach and advocacy, such as creating the role of the Coordinator of Indigenous Initiatives. I have worked with Sean Hoogterp, the Indigenous Initiatives Coordinator for the Affiliated Colleges at Western University, on this message. I thank him for his assistance.

At King’s, we have faculty and students actively involved in Truth and Reconciliation scholarship. Dr. Robert Ventresca of our History department is a papal scholar and he has shared his thoughts on the apology. “We know that apologies can’t undo the harm done by historic wrongs. Yet they can be meaningful and effective if they engage sincerely in hearing and addressing the needs of victims, their families, and their communities. Consider, for example, the TRC’s [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] call for a papal apology to be followed up by educational initiatives to make sure that Catholics and other Christian communities learn about the role of their churches in colonial racism and the residential schools. Catholic schools, including universities, have an important role to play in honouring these educational commitments while working with Indigenous communities to foster a deeper understanding of the history of residential schools and the intergenerational harms of historic wrongs.”

Today, students in Dr. Mark Yenson’s fourth year Religious Studies seminar on Truth and Reconciliation studied the apology. They are now working on letters to Pope Francis as their final assignment. You may see some of these students on CTV London discussing their learnings through this new course at King’s.

King’s, as a member of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada (ACCUC), will be participating in a joint message regarding the apology. I will share that with you once it is available. 

Now, the challenge of reconciliation rests with each of us to listen, learn and continue to take steps to better facilitate healing.