Over the past several weeks, there has been a painful national conversation on the tragic history of residential schools in Canada. The role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system has been a central part of that discussion.
We acknowledge the terrible suffering that took place and condemn the system, established by the federal government and operated by faith communities, which separated children, often forcibly, from their parents and attempted to strip away their language, culture and identity.
The Catholic Church must continue to atone for our involvement in this dark history. It is undeniable that some Catholic teachers (priests, religious men and women and lay staff) entrusted to care for children at residential schools assaulted the dignity of the students through mistreatment, neglect and abuse.
A recent poll suggested that only 10% of Canadians have a thorough understanding of the history of residential schools. We also know that many Catholics have asked for additional information, unsure of this history and wondering how to respond when asked about it. In addition to resources like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, we have prepared a webpage at: www.archtoronto.org/residentialschools with numerous resources, links and information.
We encourage you to access our latest document, “Background for Catholics – Residential Schools”, which provides answers to eight frequently asked questions on recent topics of discussion.
We’d also like to make you aware of the following recent developments:
• On June 29, 2021, it was announced that a delegation of Indigenous Elders/Knowledge Keepers, residential school survivors and youth from across the country will meet with Pope Francis from December 17-20 at the Vatican. There will be four days of meetings – focused on encounters with First Nations, Métis and Inuit participants – as well as a final audience with all delegates coming together on December 20, 2021. Pope Francis is deeply committed to hearing directly from Indigenous Peoples, expressing his heartfelt closeness, addressing the impact of colonization and the role of the Church in the residential school system, in the hopes of responding to the suffering of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma.
• We have received numerous inquiries regarding financial support related to residential schools. A more detailed response on the settlement process, what has been paid and where we have fallen short, can be found in the latest “Background for Catholics – Residential Schools” document. Currently, dioceses across the country, including the Archdiocese of Toronto, are in discussions to determine how to best engage in a renewed financial effort to meet the goal of the $25 million “best efforts” campaign. In addition, the archdiocese is developing a series of pastoral initiatives, with Indigenous participation, to engage parishioners and the broader community in a continued journey of prayer, listening and dialogue as part of ongoing reconciliation efforts.
We look forward to sharing more information with you on these plans in the days ahead.
Together We Pray
“For the children who died in residential schools throughout Canada and for all those who continue on a journey through the darkness, that there may be healing founded on truth and that the Spirit will inspire our ongoing commitment to reconciliation.
God, through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, continue to offer us correction so that your grace might change and transform us in our weakness and repentance.
Give us humility to listen when others reveal how we have failed and courage to love others as ourselves, mindful of your love for the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Amen.”
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.
Archbishop of Toronto