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Georgetown University, Jesuits apologize for roles in sale of slaves


  • Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, delivers the homily at an April 18 "Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope" in Gaston Hall on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)
  • Jessica Tilson, descendant of the Hawkins, Hill, Scott, Butler and Diggs family lines, delivers remarks at the dedication ceremony of the Isaac Hawkins and Anne Marie Becraft halls April 18 at Georgetown University in Washington. (CNS photo/Georgetown University)
  • Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia offers remarks during an April 18 dedication ceremony for Isaac Hawkins Hall and Anne Marie Becraft Hall on the university's campus in Washington. (CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard)
  • Onita Estes-Hicks, and her nephew, the Rev. Leroy Baker, descendants of the Butler family line, offer a reading from Isaiah during an April 18 "Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition, and Hope" at Georgetown University in Washington. (CNS photo/Georgetown University)

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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Georgetown University and the Society of Jesus' Maryland province apologized April 18 for their roles in the 1838 sale of 272 enslaved individuals for the university's benefit.

More than 100 descendants attended a morning "Liturgy of Remembrance, Contrition and Hope" that the university created in partnership with descendants, the Archdiocese of Washington and the Society of Jesus in the United States.

"Today the Society of Jesus, who helped to establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say that we have greatly sinned," said Jesuit Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, during the liturgy. "We pray with you today because we have greatly sinned and because we are profoundly sorry."

The event took place the day after the District of Columbia marked Emancipation Day, which celebrates the emancipation of slaves in Washington April 16, 1862. This year, the local holiday was moved to April 17 because the actual day fell on Easter Sunday.

In early April, Georgetown announced plans for the liturgy and a renaming ceremony for two buildings on campus previously named for priests who sold women, children and men into slavery for financial gain in 1838.

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