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The apology was offered at a special Treaty Day mass at St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax. (Nic Meloney/CBC) The leader of a Roman Catholic archdiocese in Nova Scotia knelt in front of a congregation including residential school survivors Monday and personally apologized for the church’s conduct at the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School.

The apology was offered during a special mass held at St. Mary’s Basilica in Halifax on Treaty Day, which marks the signing of the Peace and Friendship Treaties between the British Crown and Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik and Peskotomuhkati in 1752 and 1760.

Archbishop Anthony Mancini of the Halifax-Yarmouth Archdiocese read a homily that recognized the Mi’kmaq’s autonomy and unceded territory, and touched on the "failures of the past" during the residential school era.

He and Bishop Brian Dunn from the Diocese of Antigonish then knelt in front of the congregation to read a "Rite of Forgiveness." Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Anthony Mancini says ‘We failed miserably in this whole thing.’ (CBC News) "On this day, we personally and in our roles as leaders of the Catholic Church in Nova Scotia, kneel before the representatives of the Mi’kmaq nation to express our regret, sorrow and apology for the hurts, violence and abuse experienced in the residential school of Shubenacadie, for the participation of the Church in the promotion of misguided policies of assimilation and for our involvement in undermining aboriginal culture, language and spirituality," the bishops said.

The Rite’s text went on to address the church’s support of racist practices, and the involvement of church members in maintaining "inhuman and inadequate life conditions" for the Mi’kmaq and "indifference" to their plight.

They then requested the forgiveness needed "if reconciliation is to take place." ‘I felt so emotional’

"When I talk about it, my eyes fill up now," said Margaret Poulette of We’koqma’q First Nation, who was at the Treaty Day service.

She attended the Shubenacadie residential school from 1940 to 1945. Though she’s hard of hearing and couldn’t see front the of the church, Poulette said she still felt the importance of the moment.

As the archbishop spoke, she said, her thoughts were of her sister, brother and friends who also attended the school.

"I felt so emotional when they were walking out after [the service]," she said.

"It was positive for me, anyway. My two daughters were there … After church they came and hugged me. They were crying." Mi’kmaq girls in sewing class at the Roman Catholic-run Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in Shubenacadie, N.S. (Library and Archives Canada) Poulette said she thought the service was emotional for survivors in attendance, some of whom she said are steadfast against the Roman Catholic religion as a result of their time at the schools, and attended only as part of Treaty Day celebrations. She said no one expected an apology.

Poulette, who goes to mass every Sunday, said her daughters have questioned why she remains a practising Catholic despite the history of the schools.

"I told them, it wasn’t God that did it. It was individual people that did it," she said. ‘A gesture of respect’

Archbishop Mancini told CBC News the apology was "intended to be a gesture of respect, a gesture of acknowledgement — humility for our weak humanity."

"We failed miserably in this whole thing." Pope Francis has yet to apologize for the church’s role in residential schools, but Archbishop Anthony Mancini said he believes it could still happen. (Andrew Medichini/Associated Press) Mancini said he understands the impact that an apology from Pope Francis could have, and said he believes it will come, eventually. But in the meantime, he said work to rebuild the relationship between the church and Indigenous Peoples […]

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