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Bay Area Group Wants Pope Francis to Apologize for Catholic Church's Role in Slavery

A Bay Area group is heading to the East Coast to urge the pope to apologize to African American Catholics.

Father Aidan McAleenan of Oakland's St. Columba Catholic Church said an apology has never been done by the pope in regards to slavery.

"That would be the beginning of healing in the church and in this society to say I'm sorry," McAleenan said. "I'm sorry that the bishops in the United States had slaves."

McAleenan and a group of 18 parishioners are heading east to see Pope Francis.

The pope arrived at a U.S. military base just outside Washington, D.C., on Tuesday afternoon for the first visit of his life to the United States.

Many McAleenan's group members helped write a letter asking the pope to lead the universal church to openly acknowledge and officially apologize to African Americans for the Roman Catholic Church's role in slavery.

"The Holy Father went to Latin America and he apologized to how the indigenous people -- how they've been treated," McAleenan said. "If he can do that down there, what would be the difference of him doing it in the United Sates?"

African Americans make up a small percentage of Catholics as a whole, but when it comes to history it runs deep in the black community dating back to the 1800s.

While McAleenan and his parishioners believe in the idea that the pope should make an apology to African American Catholics, some believe now is not the time or the place.

"He really doesn't have time to look at that and whom would he call?" said Father Jay Matthews of the Cathedral of Christ The Light.

Meanwhile, St. Columba Parishioner Andrew Peters said he would like an apology.

"People always want to frame you as a Catholic," Peters said. "They don't know anything about your faith. I still want my 40 acres and a mule. It would be nice to get an apology."

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