Trudeau seeks papal apology over Canada school abuse

Posted May 30, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau meet with Pope Francis for a private audience at the Vatican on Monday, May 29, 2017.

Canadians are anxious to reconcile with Indigenous Peoples, Justin Trudeau described telling Pope Francis on Monday as he asked the pontiff to apologize for the role the Catholic Church played in the tragedy of residential schools.

The commission made 94 recommendations, including that the pope issue a formal apology in Canada to survivors and their descendents for the Church's "role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse" of the children.

Some 150,000 aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their families, and sent to live in church-run boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their language or practise their own 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.

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"He reminded me that his entire life has been dedicated to supporting marginalized people in the world", Trudeau said after he arrived back in Rome.

The meeting focused on "the themes of integration and reconciliation, as well as religious freedom and current ethical issues", the Vatican said in a statement.

In 2009, former pope Benedict did express "sorrow" on behalf of the Catholic Church for the "deplorable conduct" by some members in their treatment of indigenous children in residential schools.

The bishops of Saskatchewan, Indigenous leaders and civic authorities have invited Pope Francis to visit the province in 2018 or '19 to offer an official apology.

Trudeau, who is Catholic, and the bishops of Canada agree on fighting climate change and on welcoming and assisting refugees, especially from Syria.

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Prime Minster Trudeau had also let it be known to journalists that he would extend an invitation to Francis to visit Canada. The Prime Minister's Office called it a 42-minute meeting. The pair discussed the importance of protecting the planet, he added.

Perry Bellegarde, national chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said he remains hopeful the Pope will come through with a formal apology. "So this follow with Prime Minister Trudeau today is really great news", Mr. Littlechild said.

The prime minister gave the Pope a rare set of Jesuit Relations books, which have become an important source detailing the beginnings of Canada.

Along with the three customary documents, the Pope also gave the prime minister a copy of his message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, which he signed, just like the one he gave to U.S. President Donald Trump during their meeting last week.

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