A Catholic priest in Canada has been placed on indefinite leave after VICE World News reported that he called news of unmarked graves at residential schools a “huge lie.”
“Rev. Marcin Mironiuk, OMI, has been placed on indefinite administrative leave from ministry in the Archdiocese of Edmonton, effective immediately,” the Edmonton Archdiocese said in a statement released Friday.
Mironiuk made harmful and false comments about residential schools and unmarked graves during multiple Polish-language masses on July 18, streamed online, at Our Lady Queen of Poland parish in south Edmonton. Mironiuk said he personally visited Kamloops without disclosing he was a priest, and repeatedly asked to see the “mass graves,” after more than 200 were confirmed at the former residential school in the area in May.
Mironiuk also compared the events to the Jedwabne pogrom, a historical massacre during World War II marked by ethnic Poles killing hundreds of Jews, including children, in the Polish town of Jedwabne. Mironiuk said Poles are not to blame for the murders, even though scholars confirm Poles were likely culpable. Exhumation was limited because the Jewish community asked researchers not to disturb the remains.
Mironiuk said the unmarked graves at residential schools are “the same lies” as those told of the massacre. “The Jewish community raised the alarm and said, ‘This is sacred land, don't dig.’ It’s the same lies, my dears,” the priest told the congregation.
When the archdiocese learned of Mironiuk’s statements, the YouTube stream was reviewed and taken offline. All streamed masses have also been removed.
Edmonton’s Archbishop Richard Smith originally accepted his apology, but the latest statement says consultation with Mironiuk’s superiors and affected communities in Edmonton resulted in his leave.
“The statements regarding the Jewish and Indigenous communities and residential schools were thoroughly unacceptable and cannot be ignored. They are offensive and have caused further pain to the Jewish community, to the Indigenous community, to residential school survivors, and to all Canadians,” the latest statement says.
Canada ran residential schools with the help of churches to forcibly assimilate 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children. More than half of the schools were run by Catholics. Disease, malnutrition, and physical and sexual abuses were common. More than a thousand unmarked graves have been confirmed since late May on residential school grounds across Canada, and the Catholic Church has had to respond to multiple instances of its leaders either denying or downplaying the historic and ongoing legacy of residential schools.
While Mironiuk was slated to apologize for his comments during his upcoming masses, he will now, instead, provide an apology that a different priest will read during masses on August 14 and 15.
“The Oblate Fathers of Assumption Province will provide a priest to celebrate Masses at Our Lady of Queen of Poland parish,” the statement says. At that time, the Oblate Fathers of Assumption Province, a Catholic order of priests to whom Mironiuk belongs, will also issue an apology on behalf of the entire order.
The same group will determine Mironiuk’s future, according to Edmonton’s Archdiocese.
Anyone experiencing distress or pain as a result of residential schools can call the Indian Residential School Survivors Society Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419). It’s available 24/7. More resources available here.
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