On Saturday, Pope Francis met with both Canadian cardinals based at the Vatican, as their country continues to grapple with the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former Catholic school for indigenous youngsters.
According to the Vatican’s daily announcement of papal appointments, the pope met separately with Cardinal Michael Czerny and Cardinal Marc Ouellet.
In his function as head of the Vatican department in charge of bishops, Ouellet talks with the Pope every Saturday.
Czerny, the Vatican’s expert on migrants and refugees, does not meet with the Pope on a weekly basis. He is a Canadian citizen of Czech descent whose family moved to Montreal when he was two years old.
While the Vatican did not say what was discussed in the private audiences, diplomats said it would be highly unusual if the recent events in Canada did not come up.
Many Canadians have called on the pope to make a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential schools, which operated between 1831 and 1996 and were run by a number of Christian denominations on behalf of the government.
Francis, who was elected pope in 2013, has already apologized for the Church’s role in colonialism in the Americas but he has mostly chosen to make such apologies while visiting countries. No papal visit to Canada is scheduled.
Visiting Bolivia in 2015, Francis apologized for the “many grave sins were committed against the native people of America in the name of God”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday the Catholic Church must take responsibility for its role in running many of the schools.
Around 150,000 children were forcibly removed from their homes as a result of the residential school system. In what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission labeled “cultural genocide” in 2015, many people were subjected to abuse, rape, and hunger.
Their claimed goal was to assimilate indigenous children, and they were run by the government and various Christian churches.
The discovery of the children’s bones at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia, which closed in 1978, has resurrected old scars and sparked indignation in Canada about a lack of information and accountability.