March 16, 2015 11:42 pm
Updated: March 17, 2015 12:15 am

Vancouver lawyer, advocate for the homeless invite Pope Francis to visit the DTES


WATCH: Downtown Eastside activists are inviting the Pope to see for himself the problems in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood. John Daly reports.

A group of Vancouver residents hopes a letter they penned to Pope Francis will help attract attention to the problems on Vancouver’s troubled Downtown Eastside.

Lawyer Tom Beasley and advocate for the homeless Judy Graves are just two of the eight multi-faith signatories on the letter that invites Pope Francis to pay a visit to Vancouver this summer.

The letter says,

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Vancouver is one of the world’s most beautiful cities with much wealth – yet its urban core has large, growing numbers of people who are homeless and who have mental disabilities. Many are indigenous peoples from remote reserves, often from communities of great despair. Our governments, churches and social agencies have not struggled hard enough to find solutions.

The Downtown Eastside is one of Canada’s poorest postal codes, where many residents struggle with homelessness and drug addiction. The neighbourhood experienced its most recent spike in violence this weekend after two men were fatally stabbed at West Hotel.

In addition to Beasley and Graves, the letter was also signed by representatives from the Roman Catholic Church, Hillel House BC, Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society, Nadleh Whut’en First Nation, British Columbia Muslim Association and Alliance Church of Canada.

Beasley says they have met with church leaders CC’ed on the letter, such as Archbishop of Vancouver Michael Miller, to seek advice and direction.

WATCH: Rabbi Philip Bregman spoke to Global News about a letter written to Pope Francis about visiting Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. 

The letter goes on to say, although not all signatories to the letter belong to the Roman Catholic Church, they all share Pope Francis’s “humility, love and care for the marginalized” and hope his presence will bring a spotlight to their concerns about the neighbourhood. They also hope the Pope’s visit will start a dialogue towards resolution of these concerns.

“We are confident that this message will appeal to this particular Pope,” says Beasley. “I am optimistic he will respond favourably to the request. It meets with my understanding of his mission and echoes his interest.”

Graves, a well-known advocate for the homeless, says when Beasley shared his vision of the Pope coming to Vancouver, it seemed like the best thing they could do.

“We are sure the Pope will read the invitation and respond,” says Graves. “Pope Francis is respected for his care for the poor and oppressed, by people of all faiths. This message is at the core of all religious beliefs. We have not managed to improve living conditions on reserves in Canada, nor in our inner cities through appealing to government. We believe Pope Francis’ ability to speak into the hearts of all people will bring about a more balanced and caring society.”

The Pope is invited to visit Vancouver between May and September when he will be on his tour of North America to walk the Downtown Eastside, break bread with the residents, visit a reserve and celebrate Mass from a barge in English Bay among other things.

Read the full letter here:


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