Pope Francis’ Canada visit to include stops at private school

Written by Javed Iqbal

The Vatican has released the program for the pope’s visit to Canada next month, which includes a visit to the site of a former residential school in Alberta with survivors from the institutions.

That Papal visits begin in Edmonton on July 24 and ends in Iqaluit on July 29th. It should include public and private events with an emphasis on native participation.

“We pray that this pilgrimage will serve as another meaningful step in the long journey of healing, reconciliation, and hope,” said Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, the general coordinator of the papal visit to Canada.

Pope Francis is expected to apologize for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in schools during his trip to Canada.

On April 1, after several days of meetings with First Nations, Inuit, and Metis groups in the Vatican, the pope apologized for the deplorable behavior of church members involved in private schools.

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Edmonton on July 24 for a brief ceremony at the airport. The next day, he is to join the survivors of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis south of the city.

Ermineskin was one of the largest institutions in Canada. Smith said it “will have a representative role for all residential schools.” He expects the apology to come in front of the survivors at the school.

Later that day, Francis is scheduled to visit the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, a native church in downtown Edmonton. The church was recently restored after a significant fire in 2020.

The following day, Francis is scheduled to attend a major trade show at the Commonwealth Stadium, home of the Edmonton Elks CFL football team. It should be open to the public and the facility can accommodate about 65,000 people.

The Pope is going to Lac Ste. Anne the evening when a great pilgrimage takes place every year.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said that due to the 85-year-old pope’s high age and limitations, Francis will attend public events for about an hour.

The pope is next scheduled to travel to Quebec City on July 27, where he will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor-General Mary Simon. He is to have private meetings at La Citadelle and later give a public speech.

The pope is then scheduled to travel to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre on July 28 for a Mass. Between 10,000 and 15,000 guests are expected to attend.

The Canadian bishops said the public is also invited to a dedicated area during the Quebec City stage of the journey to see the papal events on big screens and attend original cultural events.

Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with original leaders from eastern Canada on July 29 before flying to Iqaluit. There, Francis will have a private meeting with survivors from residential schools before attending a public joint event.

The pope’s priority during the visit is the relationship with indigenous peoples, Smith said, adding that the pope has heard the cry for reconciliation and the longing for hope.

“This is a step on the journey,” Smith said. “But it’s a huge step that has huge positive opportunities attached to it to get this relationship out in a good way.”

Public events will be free, but Canadian bishops said tickets will be required and will be available in the coming days.

The release of the program comes as some concerned the pope’s health may delay the trip to Canada. Earlier this month, a planned trip to Congo and South Sudan was canceled “in order not to jeopardize the results of the therapy he is undergoing for his knee,” the Vatican said.

Francis has used a wheelchair and has struggled to walk and stand.

Smith said the Vatican’s release of the program should provide an assurance that Pope Francis will come to Canada.

Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said they are working with all levels of government and original partners to meet the logistical challenges of the journey and the pope’s health needs.

“We pray for the health of Pope Francis and also for the fact that his pastoral visit to Canada will bring reconciliation and hope to all those who will accompany our shepherd on this historic journey,” Poisson said in a press release.

The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their loved ones suffering from trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 23, 2022

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Javed Iqbal

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