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Church apologises: Top leaders say sorry for historical sins

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Church apologises: Top leaders say sorry for historical sins


When Pope Francis apologises to Indigenous groups on Canadian soil this week, he will make another effort toward healing harms inflicted at church-run residential schools – and add to the Catholic Church’s growing ledger of atonement for past transgressions.

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Like the papacy, top Protestant leaders also have gradually issued institutional mea culpas for their churches’ historical wrongs. Many of the apologies on behalf of Christian denominations are for grave offences: genocide, sex abuse, slavery, war and more.

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While increasingly common, the ecclesial apology is a relatively modern phenomenon, said Jeremy Bergen, a church apology expert and professor of religious and theological studies at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario.

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“For 1,900 years, churches didn’t apologize for the bad things that they did,” Bergen said.

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