Vatican mum on residential schools apology
At a Thursday meeting with Pope Francis, Prime Minister Stephen Harper only indirectly raised the issue of an apology from the Roman Catholic Church in the residential schools scandal – angering those who had hoped for a more personal appeal.
Harper did draw the pontiff ‘s attention to a letter to the Vatican from Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt. It takes no stand on what the Pope should do, but does note that Harper had already issued an apology in 2008 to former residential school students – to the day seven years ago, in fact – and that the TRC released an executive summary of its final report last week, with 94 recommendations, including one related to “the Churches which operated residential schools in Canada.”
But in a news release issued after Harper had his private papal audience, the Vatican did not mention the Valcourt letter or the possibility of an apology.
The ostensible reason for Harper’s meeting with the Pope on Thursday was to invite him to Canada for the 150th anniversary of Confederation, in 2017. There was no indication from the Vatican whether the Pope would take the prime minister up on his offer.
The Holy Father granted Harper “an unusually short” audience of only 10 minutes, “with an interpreter present,” the pool reporter said. That stands in contrast to the 50 minutes Pope Francis granted a day earlier to Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, a nation of about 770,000 Catholics (versus Canada’s 12.7 million). The prime minister and his wife, Laureen, were greeted by the Gentlemen of His Holiness who ushered them inside a part of the Vatican that is near the Sistine Chapel.