Pope appears open to residential schools apology, says Trudeau

Kathleen Mckinney
May 30, 2017

The prime minister also gave the Pope a set of books known as the Jesuit Relations, which Trudeau called "an essential tool for historians to understand the early years and stories of Jesuit missionaries documenting the origins of Canada".

Pope Francis received Monday in a seemingly relaxed atmosphere the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, come to speak to him about the aboriginal people of Canada victims of the policies of assimilation in which the Catholic Church has actively participated.

According to a brief May 29 communique from the Vatican, Pope Francis and Prime Minister Trudeau conversed on the topics of integration and reconciliation with indigenous people, as well as religious liberty and current ethical issues.

Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action aims to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation. Critics of the schools have argued that the institutions were part of an attempt to destroy native tribal cultures. Unlike US President Donald Trump, who met the pope last week, Trudeau and Francis agree that climate change is caused by human activity.

Trudeau said that in their private talks, the pope "reminded me that his entire life has been dedicated to supporting marginalized people in the world, fighting for them, and that he looks forward to working with me and with the Canadian bishops to figure out a path forward together".

In their 36-minute meeting which the Vatican described as "cordial", they touched on the positive bilateral relations between the Holy See and Canada, "along with the contribution of the Catholic Church to the social life of the country".

Trudeau also invited Pope Francis to visit Canada sometime in the near future.


U.S. President Donald Trump, who like Trudeau had been in Brussels for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders' meeting and in Sicily for the G7 summit, met the Pope for about 30 minutes last week.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he remains hopeful the Pope will come through with a formal apology.

The Pope gave the Prime Minister a copy of the encyclical on the environment as well as ones on family and evangelism and a gold medal marking his four years as pontiff.

Mr. Trudeau said the pontiff signalled during a 42-minute private audience that a formal apology would be forthcoming to Indigenous survivors for the sexual, mental and physical abuse they suffered at church-run schools.

This was one of the end-2015 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which heard testimony from almost 7,000 alumni over six years.

A spokesperson said Trudeau had a private drink with former prime minister Matteo Renzi on Monday evening.

Other reports by TheDigitalNewspaper

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