Vatican's Embassy Calls Residential Schools Report "High Priority"

By Jason Fekete
Ottawa Citizen
June 2, 2015

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast

The Vatican’s embassy in Ottawa says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s demands for the Pope to come to Canada to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools abuse will be sent to the Pontiff and will be a “high priority.”

However, the Catholic Archbishop of Ottawa, who apologized earlier this week for the abuse at residential schools that were run by the Roman Catholic Church, said calls for the Pope to deliver an apology in Canada is “quite an extraordinary thing to demand.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission looking into the decades of abuse of aboriginal children at residential schools across Canada released a damning report Tuesday that includes 94 recommendations, including one that stretches all the way to the Vatican.

The commission is calling for Pope Francis to visit Canada within a year and apologize to survivors, their families and communities “for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Me?tis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

A spokesperson for the embassy of the Holy See to Canada said Tuesday that the commission’s “call to action” requesting an apology in person from the Pope will be sent promptly to the pontiff.

“I think it would receive certainly high priority, it would be very much a concern to address it. It would be very important,” said Rev. Robert Ryan from the Apostolic Nunciature in Canada, the embassy of the Holy See.

“He (Pope Francis) would be very attentive to it.”

The commission’s report says there has been “a patchwork of apologies or statements of regret” in Canada that few residential school survivors or church members may even know exist. “It has been disappointing to survivors and others that the Pope has not yet made a clear and emphatic public apology in Canada,” the report says.

The commission’s report comes as Prime Minister Stephen Harper prepares to head to Europe next week for the G7 Summit in Germany and a series of other stops, including at the Vatican where he will have an audience with Pope Francis. Officials in the PMO wouldn’t say Tuesday whether Harper will raise the issue with the pontiff.

Terrence Prendergast, the archbishop of Ottawa, noted Tuesday that Pope Benedict, in 2009, expressed his “sorrow” for the abuse aboriginal children suffered at residential schools and “deplorable conduct” of members of the church at a private meeting with members of the Assembly of First Nations — including then-national chief Phil Fontaine.

“I thought, basically, that was the equivalent of an apology. I guess every Pope has to do it, and maybe Pope Francis, being a kind of a dynamo and dynamic, would please them if he were able to come,” Prendergast said.

“It’s really quite an extraordinary thing to demand that he come here and deliver it in person,” he said. “Who knows? He might take it up, but it’s quite a striking demand.”

Prendergast wondered “what will be the next demand?” and if the next Pope will also have to address the issue.

“The Pope, I think, would say, ‘I wish the healing of the people and I apologize.’”









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