PM to seek pa­pal apol­ogy

Trudeau to ask Pope to apol­o­gize for res­i­den­tial schools in Canada

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NATIONAL - JOANNA SMITH

OT­TAWA — Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is ex­pected to ask Pope Fran­cis for a for­mal apol­ogy for the role of the Catholic Church in the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem when the two meet dur­ing a pri­vate au­di­ence later this month.

The Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion in­cluded the de­mand for a pa­pal apol­ogy — to sur­vivors, their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties — among the 94 rec­om­men­da­tions in its re­port on the dark his­tory and legacy of res­i­den­tial schools.

Trudeau, who has promised to act on all 94 rec­om­men­da­tions, has pre­vi­ously promised to speak to the Pope about an apol­ogy, but noted he could not com­pel him to agree.

“It is a con­ver­sa­tion that is go­ing to have to hap­pen be­tween the two gen­tle­men,” said a fed­eral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, who spoke to re­porters at a tech­ni­cal brief­ing on the con­di­tion that sources not be named.

“Ob­vi­ously, the Vatican is well aware of the TRC re­quest and they know that’s some­thing that we will be rais­ing, but in terms of advancing that con­ver­sa­tion, I think it’s go­ing to have to hap­pen in the room,” the of­fi­cial said.

Cana­dian bish­ops have also raised the is­sue dur­ing vis­its to the Vatican over the last few months.

Trudeau is also bring­ing his wife, So­phie Gre­goire Trudeau, to meet Pope Fran­cis when he vis­its the Vatican May 29, but she and all oth­ers will re­main out­side the room when the prime min­is­ter and the re­li­gious leader hold their pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion.

The visit will also in­volve a tour of the Vatican mu­seum and the famed Sis­tine Chapel, where the ceil­ing was painted by Re­nais­sance artist Michelan­gelo.

The Vatican stop comes dur­ing a trip to Europe for the NATO lead­ers sum­mit in Brus­sels and the G7 gath­er­ing in Taormina, Italy.

There, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is also hop­ing to get a bi­lat­eral meet­ing with U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump — who this week be­gan the count­down to rene­go­ti­ate the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment — in or­der con­tinue press­ing him on the im­por­tance of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries.

Trudeau will also visit Ama­trice, Italy, the site of a dev­as­tat­ing earth­quake in Au­gust 2016, and spend time in Rome for an of­fi­cial bi­lat­eral visit in­clud­ing a meet­ing with Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Paolo Gen­tiloni.

For­mer Con­ser­va­tive prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper, who is­sued a res­i­den­tial schools apol­ogy on be­half of the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment in 2008, did not raise the is­sue di­rectly dur­ing a 10-minute au­di­ence with Pope Fran­cis two years ago, but did men­tion the re­port of the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

That re­port doc­u­mented abuse, ill­ness and even deaths in the res­i­den­tial schools. More than 150,000 First Na­tions, Metis and Inuit chil­dren passed through the schools, which were largely op­er­ated by churches and funded by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment from the 1840s to 1996, when the last one closed.

The Catholic Church op­er­ated 64 of the 140 schools in­cluded in the set­tle­ment agree­ment.

The re­port noted that the United, Angli­can and Pres­by­te­rian churches, which were also in­volved in op­er­at­ing res­i­den­tial schools, had their na­tional lead­ers is­sue for­mal apolo­gies on be­half of their churches.

The Ro­man Catholic Church in Canada, though, does not have one per­son who is au­tho­rized to speak on be­half of the whole church, which meant that apolo­gies were left to in­di­vid­ual re­li­gious or­ders and dio­ce­ses.

“The re­sult has been a patch­work of apolo­gies or state­ments of re­gret that few sur­vivors or church mem­bers may even know ex­ist,” said the re­port.

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

“His Ho­li­ness em­pha­sized that acts of abuse can­not be tol­er­ated in so­ci­ety,” said the state­ment.

The Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion re­port said this did not go far enough, es­pe­cially since it was not made in pub­lic.

“A state­ment of re­gret that chil­dren were harmed in the schools is a far cry from a full and proper apol­ogy that takes re­spon­si­bil­ity for the harms that oc­curred,” the re­port said.

The com­mis­sion said the apol­ogy should be sim­i­lar to the one that Bene­dict XVI de­liv­ered in Ire­land in 2010 to vic­tims of abuse by the church.

ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANA­DIAN PRES

An abo­rig­i­nal woman hugs Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau be­fore a meet­ing with na­tional abo­rig­i­nal or­ga­ni­za­tions on Par­lia­ment Hill in 2015. Trudeau has promised to act on all 94 Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions, one of which is to de­mand a pa­pal apol­ogy for the role of the Catholic Church in the res­i­den­tial school sys­tem.

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