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Canada-Holy See Bilateral Relations


Canada established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1969 and maintains separate diplomatic missions to the Republic of Italy and to the Holy See.   Canada recognizes the important international role and influence of the Holy See, particularly for the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics.

Recent important milestones for Canadian Catholics have increased high-level contact between the Holy See and Canada. Pope Benedict XVI canonized two Canadian saints, Saint Frère André in 2010 and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha in 2012. On both occasions, senior federal cabinet ministers led Canadian delegations to Rome for the canonization ceremonies. The Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Collins, was elevated to Cardinal in 2012, followed by the Archbishop of Quebec, elevated to Cardinal in February 2014, along with 18 other churchmen from around the world.  On both occasions, senior Canadian delegations attended the elevation ceremonies.

Canada and the Holy See have also had increased dialogue on the question of religious freedom in recent years. In 2011, Minister Baird met with Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, Under-Secretary for Relations with States, in Rome for extensive discussions focussed primarily on Canada’s plans to establish an Office of Religious Freedom, but also on several human rights cases of shared concern and ongoing challenges for religious minorities in diverse parts of the world.

In addition, as a result of continuing interest in the Holy See’s diplomatic role, several Members of Parliament from both the Senate and the House of Commons established a Canada-Holy See Parliamentary Friendship Group in 2011.

Prime Minister Harper met with Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 on the margins of the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy. Governor General David Johnston represented Canada at the Inaugural Mass of Pope Francis on March 19, 2013.

The most recent visit of a pope to Canada was in 2002, when Pope John Paul II hosted World Youth Day in Toronto.  Pope John Paul II also visited Canada in 1987 and 1984.

In terms of foreign policy, in addition to freedom of religion, the Holy See promotes justice and peace, disarmament, protection of the environment, inter-religious and inter-faith dialogue, and the sanctity of life.   Both Canada and the Holy See attach considerable importance to relations with Latin America and Asia. This focus is likely to gain prominence under Argentinian Pope Francis. It is worth noting that Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet was, inter alia, President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.


Jon Allen is non-resident Chargé d'affaires in addition to his existing duties as Canada’s Ambassador to Spain. As such, Mr. Allen is currently fully accredited as Canada’s representative to the Holy See and will retain these responsibilities until the appointment of an ambassador.

February 2014

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