Pope Francis received Monday in a seemingly relaxed atmosphere the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, come to speak to him about the aboriginal people of Canada victims of the policies of assimilation in which the Catholic Church has actively participated.
Trudeau was to ask the Pope to come to Canada to apologize to the aboriginal people, who had been victims of more than a century of abuse in residential schools governed mainly by the Church.
This was one of the end-2015 recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which heard testimony from nearly 7,000 alumni over six years.
Visibly relaxed during the public minutes of the audience, the Pope and Mr. Trudeau exchanged smiles and jokes without mentioning their 36 minutes of private conversation.
The meeting focused on “the themes of integration and reconciliation, as well as religious freedom and current ethical issues,” the Vatican said in a statement.
While Trudeau was returning from the G7 summit in Taormina, the two men also spoke of “international issues, with particular attention to the Middle East and conflict zones”.
A Catholic raised in a Jesuit college, Mr. Trudeau set up a policy of reception and integration of refugees, particularly Syrians. But the young Canadian leader is also a strong advocate for the rights of homosexuals and transgender people.
And for him, the indigenous issue is “a priority,” insisted a spokesman.
In Canada, 150,000 Amerindian, Métis and Inuit children were forcibly enrolled in 139 boarding schools run by religious communities on behalf of the Canadian government. Many of them have been subjected to abuse or sexual abuse.
Justin Trudeau himself presented his “most sincere apology” to the aboriginal people and asked them “forgiveness” on behalf of the Government of Canada.
Since his election in 2013, Francis has apologized on behalf of the Church to victims of sexual assault, persecuted Protestants in northern Italy and indigenous peoples of South America for the complicity of The Church in their oppression during the colonial conquests.
The Prime Minister presented the pope with a rare edition of the Jesuit Relations, an important source concerning the origins of Canada.
He also gave her a Montagnais-French dictionary compiled by a French Jesuit in the 17th century.
The Pope gave Mr. Trudeau a medal highlighting the fourth anniversary of his pontificate, an autographed copy of his message on the World Day of Peace and three encyclicals on family, environment and evangelism.