TORONTO, ON, April 29, 2009 – The Catholic Civil Rights League welcomes today’s meeting between Pope Benedict and a delegation of Canadian Church and aboriginal leaders, including Archbishop V. James Weisgerber of Winnipeg, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Phil Fontaine, national Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. 

During the private meeting, the Pope expressed sorrow about the abuse and other deplorable treatment that some students suffered in residential schools. The League notes that both the meeting and his comments underline the importance the Pontiff places on the fundamental human rights of all people, especially the poor and marginalized, and his willingness to acknowledge openly the harm that has sometimes been done in the Church’s name.

In a statement, the Vatican said the Pope “offered his sympathy and prayerful solidarity” to those whose anguish was caused by some Church members. The comments came during a private audience with the delegation.  During the meeting in the Vatican’s Paul VI auditorium, Pope Benedict emphasized that “acts of abuse cannot be tolerated in society,” the statement said.

About 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children were taken from their families to attend the schools from the 19th century to as late as 1996.  About three quarters of the schools were operated by Catholic groups.

The meeting was organized by Archbishop Weisgerber at the request of Pope Benedict. In a statement before the trip, Archbishop Weisgerber noted that the Church must continue to work with aboriginal communities to help address economic and cultural needs.

Deep gratitude for Pope’s meaningful meeting with Canadian Aboriginal representatives, CCCB press release, April 29, 2009

About CCRL
Catholic Civil Rights League ( assists in creating conditions within which Catholic teachings can be better understood, cooperates with other organizations in defending civil rights in Canada, and opposes defamation and discrimination against Catholics on the basis of their beliefs. CCRL was founded in 1985 as an independent lay organization and has chapters across Canada. The Catholic Civil Rights League is a Canadian non-profit organization entirely supported by the generosity of its members.

For further information: Joanne McGarry, Executive Director, 416-466-8244;