Pope Francis names new Vatican ambassador to Canada

Pope Francis meets with Mgr Ivan Jurkovic at Vatican City Nov 13 2015 Credit LOsservatore Romano CNA 11 13 15 Pope Francis and Archbishop Ivan Jurkovic at Vatican City, Nov. 13, 2015. | Vatican Media

Pope Francis on Saturday appointed a new apostolic nuncio to Canada.

The pope named Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič on June 5 to the position that had remained vacant since the previous nuncio, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, was posted to Albania in December 2020.

Jurkovič has served as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva since 2016.

The 68-year-old Slovenian archbishop has also acted as the Holy See’s representative to the World Trade Organization and the International Organization for Migration.

The appointment comes amid a firestorm in Canada following the discovery of unmarked Indigenous graves at a former Church-run residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School were located in mid-May through the use of ground-penetrating radar. The children were buried in unmarked graves and it is unclear how they died.

The school was the largest institution of its kind and was run by the Church between 1890 and 1969.

The country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran from 2008 to 2015, estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the country’s residential schools.

Among its 94 recommendations was a call for the pope “to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the possibility of an apology during a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2017.

Following the discovery in Kamloops, the Canadian government urged the pope to issue a formal apology for the Church’s role in the residential school system.

Jurkovič was born in Kočevje, southern Slovenia, on June 10, 1952. He was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Ljubljana in 1977, at the age of 25.

After training for the diplomatic service of the Holy See, he served in South Korea, Colombia, and Russia. In 2001, Pope John Paul II named him apostolic nuncio to Belarus.

From 2004 to 2011, Jurkovič served as apostolic nuncio to Ukraine and was then appointed apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, as well as Uzbekistan.

In 2016, Pope Francis appointed him to the permanent observer role in Geneva, where he spoke on behalf of the Holy See on a welter of issues, including Islamophobia, COVID-19 vaccines, and coronavirus lockdowns.

He is fluent in Slovenian, Italian, English, Spanish, French, German, and Russian.

Archbishop Bonazzi, Jurkovič’s predecessor in Canada, served as apostolic nuncio from 2013 to 2020. Pope Francis named him nuncio to Albania on Dec. 10.

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The Apostolic Nunciature in Canada is based in the capital, Ottawa. The 2011 National Household Survey reported that around 13 million Canadians are baptized Catholics.

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