Edmonton's Archbishop Richard Smith says "pain was etched on his face" as Pope Francis listened stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Smith and other western bishops met with the Pope during their ‘ad limina’ visits in March. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope Francis’ pain over TRC was ‘etched on his face,’ says Archbishop Smith

By  Anrew Ehrkamp, Catholic Register Special
  • June 8, 2017

EDMONTON – Archbishop Richard Smith doesn’t know if Pope Francis is coming to Canada but he is convinced the Pope has been deeply affected by the testimonies of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“The pain was just etched on his face as he listened to the stories, so we know we can trust Pope Francis to do what is right and what is good and take very seriously the request that has come from the government and the TRC process,” Smith said. “And we’ll see.”

Smith and other western Canadian bishops discussed the residential schools during their ad limina visit with Pope Francis in March.

“Just to see the look on his face as we recounted some of the challenges, he’s a clearly a man with a very, very serious pastoral heart,” Smith said during his annual media breakfast on May 29, the same day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked the Pope to come to Canada to apologize for the Church’s role in the residential schools.

A papal apology on Canadian soil was among the 94 recommendations of the commission to address the harms and trauma of residential schools.

Willie Littlechild, a survivor of three residential schools and a former TRC commissioner, said an apology from Pope Francis would be a major step towards forgiveness for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system.

“It will give survivors that expression of regret. They want the Pope to say ‘I’m sorry’. For some it will be enough, for others we’ll find out,” said Littlechild. “I hope it will happen. It gives people the opportunity to forgive, and that’s important, too. Many survivors will feel a sense of justice and reconciliation.”

(Ehrkamp is news editor of Pastoral Scene in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.)

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