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Anglican leader apologizes to Canadian residential school survivors for church’s role

"I am more sorry than I could ever, ever begin to express,” said the Rev. Justin Welby.

Justin Welby, archbishop of Canterbury, addresses the General Synod at Church House on Feb. 20, 2019, in London. Video screengrab via Church of England

PRINCE ALBERT, Saskatchewan (AP) — The head of the Anglican Communion told a gathering of Canadian residential school survivors Saturday he was sorry for the church’s role in the “terrible crime” that was committed.

The Rev. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, visited the James Smith Cree Nation and heard stories shared by residential school survivors.

“It was the church that permitted it,” said Welby. “Building hell and putting children into it and staffing it. I am more sorry than I could ever, ever begin to express.”

On Sunday, Welby will attend an Indigenous gathering in Prince Albert where he is to meet with Indigenous leaders and more residential school survivors.

The Anglican Church of Canada says it ran about three dozen residential schools in Canada between 1820 and 1969.

In 1993, the Canadian church apologized for operating residential schools.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada.

In April, Pope Francis apologized to Indigenous people for the deplorable conduct of church members involved in residential schools following meetings with Metis, Inuit and First Nations delegates at the Vatican.