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Pope Francis said on Sunday (June 6) that he was pained by the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former Catholic school for indigenous students in Canada, and called for respect of the rights and cultures of native peoples.
But - during his weekly blessing at St. Peter's Square - Francis stopped short of the direct apology some Canadians had demanded.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week the Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running many of the schools.
Francis urged Canadian political and Catholic religious leaders to "cooperate with determination" to shed light on the finding and to seek reconciliation and healing.
And he prayed for Canada's indigenous families.
The residential schools operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run on behalf of the government, mostly by the Catholic Church.
The schools forcibly separated about 150,000 children from their homes. Many were subjected to abuse, rape and malnutrition in what a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 called "cultural genocide."
The discovery last month of the remains of the children at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has reopened wounds for survivors of the system.
Francis has in the past apologized for the Church's role in colonialism in the Americas.
But he has mostly chosen to make direct apologies while visiting countries and talking to native peoples, and no papal visit to Canada is scheduled.