Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican May 29. CNS Photos

Editorial: Plenty to discuss when Trudeau visits Pope

  • May 25, 2017

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when Pope Francis welcomes Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a papal audience in coming days.

The Pope is fresh off a series of spring meetings with Canada’s bishops. After many hours of dialogue, Francis is well versed on the many challenges facing the Canadian Church. Prominent among them is a government led by a Prime Minister who, although Catholic, supports several policies there are at odds with Vatican positions. Seldom, if ever, in its 150-year history has Canada appeared so morally adrift from the Holy See.

How awkward is it? Consider this: In a 2014 open letter to Trudeau, Cardinal Thomas Collins posited that, if prior to being elected Pope, Jorge Bergoglio had moved to Canada and entered politics he would now be banned from seeking office under a Liberal banner. Think about that. A man of abundant compassion, virtue, intelligence and generosity would be rejected due to an edict to refuse candidates who, for reasons of conscience or religion, disagree with party policy on abortion.

For his part, Trudeau has said he wants to address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report that seeks another papal apology for the abusive conduct of some Catholics in the residential schools scandal. The two men are also likely to address refugees and Canada’s generous response to the Syrian crisis. Additionally, Trudeau hopes to explore ways Canada and the Holy See can collaborate on international issues, which could be interesting.

In March, Cardinal Collins and Bishop Douglas Crosby each sent letters to Trudeau denouncing a new policy to fund overseas abortions and pro-abortion advocacy. Crosby’s biting letter called the policy “a reprehensible example of Western cultural imperialism.” Those words parallel a Francis concern about Western “ideological colonization … that tries to destroy the family.”

No one expects the Pope to scold Trudeau. But in the spirit of the co-operation the Prime Minister seeks, a frank conversation might include the Pope asking not only about Canada’s domestic and overseas policies that impact life and family, but a range of other issues.

Matters of papal concern might include Canada’s role in international arms sales or its failure to meet its United Nations foreign aid commitments. There is also the matter of oil pipelines, the environment, Native rights and Native poverty.  And who could blame Francis if he asks what happened to the Office of Religious Freedom? Then there’s the matter of euthanasia and assisted suicide and government reluctance to protect the conscientious-objection rights of health care workers.

These audiences are typically brief. Two years ago, Stephen Harper received 10 minutes. Hopefully, Trudeau will be there longer and he’ll listen closely — dare we suggest prayerfully? — to Pope Francis, the pastor.

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