By Barry Ellsworth
TRENTON, Ont. (AA) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a private meeting with Pope Francis Monday and requested the Catholic Church apologize for its role in the Indian residential school tragedy.
Following the meeting at the Vatican, Trudeau indicated Pope Francis would work with the prime minister and Canadian Catholic bishops toward the apology.
“He reminded me that his entire life has been dedicated to supporting marginalized people in the world,” Trudeau said, as reported by CTV News.
In the 19th century, the Canadian government began taking Indian children from their parents and putting them in church-run schools to convert them to Christianity and teach them English.
The students faced rampant physical and sexual abuse at the schools, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up to address their grievances.
About 150,000 children in all were taken beginning in the late 1800s and lodged in far-away schools. There were about 80 residential schools at the peak of the program in 1931, and many were run by the Catholic Church.
The last school closed in 1996. The commission has demanded the church issue an apology.
In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI expressed “sorrow” over the “deplorable conduct” by some members of the church at the residential schools, but a formal apology has never been made.
The Anglican Church apologized for its role in the residential school tragedy in 1993 and the United Church did the same in 1998.
Trudeau, a practicing Catholic, said he issued an invitation to the Pope to visit Canada in the coming years, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.