Cardinal Pietro Parolin’s planned visit to Canada this month has been cancelled due to the pandemic. CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz

Cardinal Parolin visit to Canada scrapped by COVID-19

By 
  • September 30, 2020

OTTAWA -- A planned visit this month by one of the highest-ranking members of the Catholic Church to commemorate the anniversary of a milestone in the relationship between Canada and the Holy See has been put off until at least next spring because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

An official visit to Ottawa by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin was being planned for five days in October but has since been postponed. The special visit may still take place next spring, depending on whether the COVID-19 pandemic has eased, a representative of the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Canada said.

“There were a lot of discussions, including with the Prime Minister’s Office, the conference of bishops and the Holy See, and it was agreed to cancel at this time,” said Msgr. Matjaž Roter, first secretary of the Apostolic Nunciature in Canada.

Roter said the visit by Parolin was to mark the 50th anniversary of official diplomatic relations between Canada and the Holy See, which were first established in 1969. If the visit had proceeded it would have seen the Secretary of State stay in Ottawa Oct. 7-11.

Since Canada first established diplomatic relations with the Holy See it has operated two distinct diplomatic missions in Italy, one for the country and one for the Holy See in Rome.

While the now cancelled visit would have been tied into the anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Canada, it would have also been a visit by the most senior member of the Catholic Church from the Vatican since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final report in 2015 on Canada’s residential school system. The TRC’s final report called on the Catholic Church to officially apologize for the Church’s role in operating many of the residential schools in Canada.

In 2017, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asked Pope Francis to visit Canada to make an official Church apology and Canada’s MPs also made such a request in a vote in the House of Commons. Pope Francis has not issued a formal apology on behalf of the Church.

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