Trudeau: Pope ap­peared open to idea of res­i­den­tial schools apol­ogy

Cana­dian prime min­is­ter gained some spir­i­tual ful­fil­ment from meet­ing

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JOANNA SMITH

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 Pope — him­self no stranger to the cause of so­cial jus­tice, he noted to Trudeau — seemed open to the idea, the prime min­is­ter said as he re­lated the broad strokes of their pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion at the Vat­i­can.

“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.

Pope Fran­cis also ex­pressed his en­thu­si­asm for work­ing with the prime min­is­ter and the Cana­dian bish­ops on find­ing a way for­ward on the is­sue of an apol­ogy, as rec­om­mended by the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion.

The com­mis­sion in­cluded the de­mand for a pa­pal apol­ogy — to survi-

vors, their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties — as one of the 94 rec­om­men­da­tions in its re­port on the dark 120year his­tory and tragic legacy of res­i­den­tial schools.

Trudeau, who has promised to act on each rec­om­men­da­tion, had pre­vi­ously com­mit­ted to speak­ing to the Pope about an apol­ogy, but pointed out he could not com­pel the pon­tiff to agree.

On Mon­day, Trudeau said he in­vited the Pope to visit Canada in the com­ing years, and thanked him for the global lead­er­ship he has shown on cli­mate change.

“We talked about how im­por­tant it is to both high­light the sci­en­tific ba­sis of pro­tect­ing our planet, with the moral and eth­i­cal obli­ga­tion to lead and to build a bet­ter fu­ture for all peo­ple on this earth,” he said.

Trudeau, a re­li­gious Catholic, sug­gested the meet­ing gave him some spir­i­tual ful­fil­ment.

“I also had an op­por­tu­nity to have a deeply per­sonal and widerang­ing, thought­ful con­ver­sa­tion with the leader of my own faith.”

Just be­fore 12:30 p.m., the me­dia was ush­ered in to the Pope’s pri­vate quar­ters, then quickly hus­tled out. At 1:04 p.m., a bell rang, sig­nalling the end of Trudeau’s pri­vate au­di­ence.

The Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice called it a 42-minute meet­ing.

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

Af­ter­ward, Trudeau in­tro­duced his wife, So­phie Gre­goire Trudeau, to the Pope along with of­fi­cials from the PMO.

The prime min­is­ter pre­sented the Pope with a dic­tio­nary in French and Mon­tag­nais — spo­ken by the Innu peo­ple in Labrador and north­ern Que­bec — writ­ten by a French Je­suit in the 17th cen­tury.

Pope Fran­cis, through an in­ter­preter, said it was the cus­tom of Je­suits to pro­duce such dic­tio­nar­ies when they trav­elled, to en­able them to com­mu­ni­cate with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

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.”

“This is a rare edi­tion that we got from the Je­suits in Canada,” he said.

In re­turn, the Pope gave the prime min­is­ter a gold medal mark­ing the fourth year of his pon­tif­i­cate, an au­to­graphed copy of his mes­sage for World Peace Day and three pa­pal let­ters about fam­ily, the en­vi­ron­ment and evan­ge­lism.

A read­out from the PMO de­scribed “an ex­tended con­ver­sa­tion” on the need for lead­er­ship on is­sues like cli­mate change and mass mi­gra­tion, and a dis­cus­sion about stronger re­la­tions be­tween Canada and the Holy See.

A state­ment from the Vat­i­can said that in light of what came out of the G7 sum­mit, their “cor­dial” dis­cus­sions also touched on in­ter­na­tional is­sues, par­tic­u­larly the Mid­dle East and ar­eas of con­flict.

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.

Not good enough, said the com­mis­sion, es­pe­cially since it was not made in pub­lic, rec­om­mend­ing an apol­ogy sim­i­lar to one Bene­dict de­liv­ered in Ire­land in 2010 to vic­tims of abuse by the church.

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

“Pope Fran­cis has a lot of in­flu­ence on world think­ing and is a very, very pop­u­lar pope,” Bel­le­garde said.

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Pope Fran­cis on the oc­ca­sion of their pri­vate au­di­ence at the Vat­i­can, Mon­day.

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