Edmonton archbishop says Vatican should apologize for role in residential schools

Posted May 30, 2017

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, met Pope Francis on Monday in a private audience in the Vatican, the Holy See said in a statement.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday where they discussed reconciliation with Canada's indigenous people.

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.

Trudeau's government has promised a call to action on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's demand for a papal apology to survivors, their families and communities related to the dark legacy of residential schools. Children robbed of their identity, and banned from speaking their native language or taking part in their culture.

Similar apologies have been issued by Anglican, Presbyterian and United Churches, who along with the Catholic Church helped run these schools as joint ventures with the Canadian government.

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". But he said Pope Francis doesn't plan to visit Canada this year.

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The official Vatican statement on the meeting between Trudeau and the pope did not include information on the apology.

In a 2009 meeting with an Indigenous delegation from Canada that included Phil Fontaine, a residential school survivor and then-grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, Pope Benedict expressed "sorrow" and "sympathy" and condemned those who had harmed children. Trudeau is seeking the apology as a way for the Catholic church to acknowledge the role it played in Canada's residential schools.

Mr Trudeau, however, is under political pressure to implement all 94 of the Truth and Reconciliation commission's recommendations, while a visit from Francis would be a boost to the country's leader, a rising star on the world stage.

Visibly relaxed during the public minutes of the audience, the Pope and Mr. Trudeau exchanged smiles and jokes without mentioning their 36 minutes of private conversation.

Trudeau, who is Catholic, says he gave the Pope a set of rare Jesuit Relations books, as well as a Montagnais-French dictionary penned by a 17th-century French Jesuit.

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.