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'deeply sorry'

'I humbly beg forgiveness': Pope Francis apologizes to Canada's Indigenous community

Pope Francis on Monday apologized to Indigenous groups in Canada for the Catholic Church's involvement in the forced assimilation of native peoples into Christian society, a historic moment of atonement in what the religious leader has described as a "penitential pilgrimage."

"I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples," the pope said, speaking at the site of a former residential school in Maskwacis, Alberta. "It is necessary to remember how the policies of assimilation and enfranchisement, which also included the residential school system, were devastating for the people of these lands," he continued.

The weeklong trip also comes as "the result of years of Indigenous requests for an official acknowledgment from the church," notes The Washington Post, calls for which intensified after hundreds of unmarked graves were uncovered near former schools last year. A government-funded report described the system — which "forced Indigenous children from their parents" and led to decades of abuse — as one of cultural genocide, add the Post and the Journal.

Operating from the 19th century to the 1970s, the residential school system traumatized roughly 150,000 Indigenous children. Conditions were horrible, and malnutrition, abuse, and death ran wild, reports The Associated Press.

Francis also hosted and apologized to an Indigenous delegation for the church's conduct within the schools back in April, though many argued his comments did not go far enough.