Pope, Canadian Cardinals meet amid calls for church to act on residential schools
Pope Francis met with two Canadian cardinals on Saturday amid growing pressure on the Catholic Church to take responsibility for Canada’s residential school system, although it is not known what was discussed.
No information was immediately available on why the Pope met Cardinal Marc Ouellet, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, a senior official in the Vatican’s migrants and refugees portfolio.
The meetings were disclosed in the Vatican’s Daily Papal Audience List.
Lists of past appointments show that Pope Francis meets Oulette every Saturday, but encounters with Czerny are rare. The latter two met on May 10, but Czerny’s name does not appear in previous agendas.
The Vatican did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting and attempts to reach the cardinals were unsuccessful.
The appointments came a day after nine United Nations human rights experts pleaded with the Catholic Church, as well as Canadian authorities, to “conduct swift and thorough investigations” into an anonymous burial site that is believed to contain the remains of 215 Indigenous children found at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.
The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced last week that ground penetrating radar has confirmed the results.
“Large-scale human rights violations have been committed against children belonging to indigenous communities, it is inconceivable that Canada and the Holy See will leave such heinous crimes unanswered and without full reparation,” a statement said on Friday. of the United Nations High Commissioner. Commissioner for Human Rights.
The Kamloops School operated between 1890 and 1969, when the federal government took over the operations of the Catholic Church and operated it as a day school until it closed in 1978.
Some 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly sent to residential schools, where many suffered abuse and even death.
The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have run about 47 percent of residential schools in Canada, including Kamloops. The Oblates refused to release their records to help identify the remains.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also lobbied the Catholic Church on Friday, calling on officials to “step up” and take responsibility for his role in the system and urging the release of school-related files. Trudeau said he was “deeply disappointed” with the position taken by the Catholic Church, adding that he personally asked Pope Francis in 2017 to consider apologizing for the institution’s role in schools managed by the church and sponsored by the government.
“This is something we are all still waiting for the Catholic Church to do,” Trudeau said.
Ouellet is from La Motte, Quebec, and would have been a favorite to succeed Pope Benedict XVI as Church leader in 2013. He plays a key role in the selection of bishops and archbishops around the world.
Czerny is a Canadian of Czech origin whose family settled in Montreal. He is the Vatican Undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development.
Friday’s release of the nine independent experts from the UN human rights office said they expect the church to provide judicial authorities with “full access … schools and publicly disclose the results of their efforts.
The statement was also aimed at Ottawa, saying that Canada’s Indigenous peoples have waited “too many years” for the federal government to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, released in 2015.
Ottawa must investigate the sites of all other residential schools in Canada, the statement said.
“The judiciary should conduct criminal investigations into all suspicious deaths and allegations of torture and sexual violence against children in residential schools, and prosecute and punish perpetrators and receivers who may still be alive,” the officials said. experts in the release.
The signatories to the release included Mama Fatima Singhateh, an expert on the sexual exploitation of children, and Francisco Cali Tzay, an expert on the rights of indigenous peoples.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on June 5, 2021.