• Trudeau asks Pope for an apology over church's role in residential schools
May 29, 2017

Justin Trudeau says he told Pope Francis it's important for all Canadians to move forward with reconciliation, and that the pontiff could help by issuing an apology for the role the Catholic Church played in residential schools.

The prime minister says the Pope appeared to be open to it, noting that his entire life has been dedicated to supporting marginalized people in the world.

Following his visit to Vatican City, Trudeau says Pope Francis looked forward to working with the prime minister and the Canadian bishops on finding a way forward.

Trudeau says he also invited Pope Francis to visit Canada in the coming years.

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

Trudeau also presented Pope Francis with a Montagnais-French dictionary written by a French Jesuit in the 17th century.

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, environment and evangelism.​

He thanked the pontiff for the global leadership he has shown on climate change and the pair discussed the importance of protecting the planet.

Trudeau, a religious Catholic, says the meeting was also an opportunity to have a deeply personal discussion with the leader of his faith.

At 1:04 p.m., a bell rang, signalling the end of the private audience, which began in the Pope's private quarters at 12:28 p.m.

Trudeau then introduced his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, to the Pope along with officials from the Prime Minister's Office.

Previous pope expressed 'sorrow' for residential schools

Former 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. Harper did mention the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

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.

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

Visit to Amatrice

On Sunday, Trudeau appealed to the heart of the country by visiting Amatrice, a tiny town still struggling to recover from a devastating earthquake.

"It's an opportunity to share our thoughts, our condolences, our sympathies, but also demonstrate our resolve to accompany our friends in this difficult time," Trudeau said Sunday as he stood below a clock tower, the only structure standing on a street lined with rubble.

That clock is stopped at 3:36 — the time in the morning the 6.2-magnitude quake hit the area in central Italy about 100 kilometres northeast of Rome on August 24, 2016. Some 300 people were killed, including one Canadian.

Many of them were children, and signs of their presence, including an illustrated cloth book and a inflatable pool toy, could be seen among the rocks, dust and other rubble piled high.


Efforts to rebuild the town, which includes many heritage buildings from medieval times, have been moving slowly.

The Italian-Canadian community has been trying to bring more attention to that fact, raising money to help pay for things like medical vehicles needed to navigate the mountainous terrain.