Diocese of Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen has apologized in behalf of the Catholic Church in Saskatchewan for its past atrocities and would support having Pope Francis visit Canada.
Hagemoen, in a recorded message released on video sharing site YouTube, expressed regrets on the role played by members of the clergy and religious institutions during the height of the residential school era.
“I wish to address two issues today: the issue of residential schools and the issue of sexual abuse. Both involve the Catholic church, and both involve sinfulness in particular the sinfulness of Catholics when we have not lived up to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as individuals or as an institution. Both involve deep and lasting wounds that will only be healed through listening, repentance, conversion of hears, and concrete action, demonstrating true conversion of heart,” said Hagemoen.
“Since the discovery of grave sites at various cemeteries of former residential schools was announced, I have listened and heard how the shock and dismay of this news is impacting and hurting so many in our community.”
He added that he’s heard and shared in the sorrow and anguish of those affected by the abuses made by Catholics in residential schools that were established and operated by the government for more than 100 years.
“I deeply regret and apologize that Catholics were part of this system, which was designed to separate children from their families and communities, and to assimilate them into a culture that featured colonial attitude and approach.
“I deeply regret and apologize for the damage done to the children at these schools, which for many included neglect and abuse. I apologize for the deaths that happened at these schools with children dying away from their mothers, fathers, grandparents and families. And I apologize to the families and the communities who have not been able to honour children’s burial sites as the discoveries of other planned searches at other cemeteries progress.”
He also apologized to the victims and to church members whose faith were affected by the actions of few members of the clergy.
“I again express my profound sorrow, and I apologize for what you have suffered, and for the betrayal violation and abandonment you have experienced. I also apologize to all members of our church whose faith and trust has been damaged because of the sinful actions of those who have abused the innocent, and those who covered up such abuse.”
He added that discovery of burial sites and unmarked graves sites in former residential schools would bring back the pain the survivors felt during their stay in the said facilities.
“We know that this will happen again and will also expose wounds and scars from the residential school legacy, and raises awareness that our church communities and larger Canadian communities are very much at the beginning of the work to address the calls to action featured in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
Hagemoen said he also supports a visit to Canada by Pope Francis, a move that could help reconciliation and healing.
“I commit to do all I can to work with our Catholic community to engage in such work, including extending my own support for Pope Francis to come to Canada, and further the journey of reconciliation in our church and in our country, and joining the other Catholic bishops in Saskatchewan in initiating the already announced new fundraising appeal among our parishioners to support healing and reconciliation programs for residential school survivors, their families and communities.”
He also mentioned the diocese’s ongoing work to implement the Action Plan in creating a safe environment and response to sexual abuse and serious misconduct done by clergy members or the laity.
“Developing and acting on this plan has revealed the range of needs and perspectives of victims and survivors as they recover from the trauma of sexual abuse, or other forms of serious misconduct.
Hagemoen then thanked the individuals, Catholic and non-Catholic, who performed the duties that were asked of them. The Historical Case Review and Policy and Operations Review committees worked independently without any supervision from the diocesan office.
He also recognized the need for individual and institutional change to move forward and heal together.
“Words must be accompanied by substantial actions, and trust must be earned, not merely granted. It is my earnest commitment that this stage of developing or safeguarding action plan, demonstrates that we are holding the bar high, in assuring that all our churches are safe and respectful communities.
“We are in the midst of a difficult and life changing time. I hope and pray that these expressions of sorrow and support will provide some basis for the Catholic communities’ contribution to building a safer and more respectful, civic community.”