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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) – Pope Francis spoke to and met with individuals speaking on behalf of Canadian Aboriginal groups on Friday. He apologized on behalf of the Church for any wrongdoing done to native Canadians by Catholics in the past.

The Pope held private meetings with representatives of the various tribes and groups and listened to their stories.

About the encounters, he said: “I was able to enter into and be deeply grieved by the stories of the suffering, hardship, discrimination and various forms of abuse that some of you experienced, particularly in the residential schools.”

The Residential School system was a system of boarding schools funded by the Canadian government over a series of decades in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some schools were run by Catholic religious orders, and others were not.

Pope Francis also indicated he plans to visit Canada in July, possibly arriving for the feast of St. Anne on July 26. He said on Friday during an audience with the native Canadian representatives: “It gives me joy, for example, to think of the veneration that has spread among many of you for St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. This year I would like to be with you during those days.”

While there were Catholics who committed grave abuses against native children, past transgressions by some Catholics have been whipped up by anti-Catholic political actors into accusations of “murder and genocide

Last year, anti-Catholic sentiment reached an all-time high in Canada as the story of a supposed mass grave in Kamloops, B.C., of “unmarked child” burial locations surfaced. The claim that hundreds of children were buried and forgotten about by Catholic priests and nuns who ran some of the schools was not challenged by the main stream media at the time, and what followed was a series of Church burnings across Canada.

The push to have Pope Francis apologize the role of some Canadian Catholic prelates and laypeople in the government of Canada’s Residential School system reached a fever-pitch last summer as Prime Minister Trudeau, nominally a Catholic, stoked resentment as churches were burned to the ground.

In the end, it turned out the first “unmarked graves” that were discovered might have only been “depressions and abnormalities in the soil of an apple orchard near the school.”

In addition, reliable death records from the time of Residential Schools exist, and data from an extensive multi-year investigation of the school system by the Canadian government shows that all the deaths that took place at sites where “unmarked graves” were said to have been were accounted for.

In fact, the cemeteries on the land adjacent to the Residential Schools were not exclusively for native Canadians, thus anyone could have been buried in those locations.