Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States president Rev. Timothy Kesicki said during a prayer service that the group has "greatly sinned" and is "profoundly sorry".
"Today the Society of Jesus, which helped to establish Georgetown University and whose leaders enslaved and mercilessly sold your ancestors, stands before you to say: We have greatly sinned, in our thoughts and in our words, in what we have done and in what we have failed to do", Kesicki was quoted as saying.
In partnership with the Archdiocese of Washington and the Society of Jesus in the United States, Georgetown University renamed two buildings on its campus on April 18 in honor of the 272 enslaved men, women and children sold by Maryland Jesuits in 1838.
One building was named after Anne Marie Becraft, who taught the Catholic faith to black girls in the University.
Sandra Green Thomas, a descendant of the slaves and president of the GU272 Descendants Association, spoke at length at the liturgy about the 272 enslaved people, her ancestors and her Catholic faith.
Mulledy Hall was renamed after Isaac Hawkins, the first enslaved person listed in the sale documents.
Jesuit Father Thomas Mulledy, as Georgetown president, authorized the transaction, and Jesuit Father William McSherry also was involved in the 1838 sale and in other slave sales.
Karran Harper Royal, another descendant, thanked Georgetown for its steps toward acknowledging its ties with slavery, particularly the students who took their concerns about the university's history to the administration in 2015.
During an afternoon Tree Ceremony and Libation Ritual for Ancestors the soil was spread over the roots of a white oak tree, chosen because the tree is indigenous to both Maryland and Louisiana.
After the ceremony, Georgetown's Black Movements Dance Theatre performed. Last September, officials announced several measures meant to reconcile for its history, including extending admissions preference for the descendants of the people the school once owned.
"We offer this apology for the descendants and your ancestors humbly and without expectations, and we trust ourselves to God and the Spirit and the grace He freely offers to find ways to work together and build together", Georgetown President John DeGioia said at the religious service, according to U.S. News.
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