Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Pope Francis on Monday, urging the pontiff to apologize to indigenous Canadians for more than a century of abuse at church-run schools. The pontiff seemed open to the idea, the Canadian Press reports. During a meeting at the Vatican, Trudeau went beyond the typical exchange of gifts. "I told him how important it is for Canadians to move forward on real reconciliation with the indigenous peoples and I highlighted how he could help by issuing an apology," the PM said, per Reuters. Beginning in the 1880s, some 150,000 native children were torn from their families and sent to Catholic-run boarding schools, where their language and culture were banned, per the BBC. Many suffered physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, per Reuters. The last school closed in 1996.
Other churches, including the Anglican and Presbyterian, have apologized for their role in the forced-integration effort that Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission denounced as "cultural genocide." The Vatican did not comment on the apology but noted that the 36-minute visit was "cordial" and "focused on the themes of integration and reconciliation," and "religious freedom and current ethical issues." Pope Benedict in 2009 voiced his "sorrow at the anguish" caused at the schools, per the BBC. Trudeau, a Catholic, said the pope "reminded me that his entire life has been dedicated to supporting marginalized people in the world ... and that he looks forward to working with me and with the Canadian bishops to figure out a path forward together." (Pope Francis apologized to Protestants.)