The Pope, 85, will visit Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit as part of this pilgrimage from July 24 to July 29.
The visit to Canada comes after the Pope’s historic apology last month in Italy for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools in Canada.
“We will have the Pope visit a former residential school site and other locations of significance,” said Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, general co-ordinator of the trip for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, at a news conference on Friday.
“We fully expect that the Pope will reiterate the apology he did give in Rome.”
Last fall, the Vatican announced the Pope intended to come to Canada to help efforts at reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
He met with several Indigenous delegations at the Vatican last month, where he delivered an apology for the church’s role in the residential school system.
“All this made me feel two things very strongly — indignation and shame,” the Pope said to the crowd seated in an ornate, well-lit room inside the Vatican on April 1. “Indignation, because it is not right to accept evil, and even worse to grow accustomed to evil as if it were an inevitable part of the historical process.
“All these things are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the deplorable conduct of these members of the Catholic Church, I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry.”
Full trip details to come, organizers say
In its announcement Friday, the Vatican said the Pope would only visit three Canadian cities in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut.
It was made clear to organizers the limited trip was due to the Pope’s health issues and age, Smith said.
Francis has been making some public appearances in a wheelchair after weeks of limping badly due to a badly strained knee ligament, the Vatican has said. On Sunday, however, he did stand at a window of the Apostolic Palace to greet the pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.
“When he comes to a country, he can’t get around by helicopter, he be can’t in a car any more than an hour, he can’t be in a different place every night. So what they’ve said is we’re going to have to choose places as hubs that will allow him to access sites that will be meaningful, but easily accessible within a short space of time,” Smith said.
“The Vatican chose these three sites for those various reasons, seeing how we could have a meaningful impact within a very limited scope. But that places on all of us a responsibility to make sure those venues, once chosen, still are going to have a national impact. This is the kind of thing we want to be working on in significant detail with our Indigenous partners as this unfolds.”
The full itinerary for the Pope’s visit will be announced once it’s confirmed, which Smith expects to be sometime in mid-June.
Edmonton is home to the second-largest number of Indigenous people living in urban centres and there were 25 residential schools in Alberta. Lac Ste. Anne, an important site for Indigenous people and the location of a large religious pilgrimage each July, is also nearby.
Iqaluit, located on Nunavut’s Baffin Island, is home to the highest population of Inuit.
Meanwhile, the Canadian bishops said Quebec City will be a hub for Indigenous people, not only in Quebec, but in the country’s east to see the Pope. The city is also near Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, another important pilgrimage site.
This would be the fourth papal visit to Canada, and the first since Pope John Paul II’s in 2002, he added.
Reaction pours in
In Edmonton, which is located within Treaty 6 Territory, Grand Chief George Arcand Jr. thanked survivors who advocated for the Pope to visit Canada.
“There are numerous residential school sites across the country that have been identified for the Pope’s week-long visit. I recognize the impact the Pope’s visit will have in Treaty 6, to the survivors, their families and communities,” Arcand Jr. said in a statement.
“My prayers are with the survivors – it is my hope we are on a path to healing and that survivors’ truths are validated with this historic visit to our territories.”
An Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) spokesperson told Global News they welcome the Pope’s visit to Iqaluit.
“We are pleased to be able to welcome him in Iqaluit in July for a visit centred on truth, justice, healing, reconciliation and hope,” they said.
The Pope must show commitment to action in the areas of truth, reconciliation, justice and healing during the trip, said the Metis National Council. It wasn’t consulted on the location choices, said President Cassidy Caron.
“We hope that the Vatican will work closely with us in the spirit of reconciliation to ensure that there is adequate resourcing for any and all survivors who wish to attend,” Caron said in a statement.
It’s a “huge missed opportunity” the Pope isn’t visiting B.C., said Upper Nicola Okanagan Nation Chief Harvey McLeod.
“There’s a lot of our people that need to see and hear from him directly,” he said.
“It would have been really good if he could come and give the blessing himself on the souls that are buried in Tk’emlúps.”
Many Indigenous leaders had called for Pope Francis to visit the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation in Kamloops, B.C., where the discovery of unmarked graves at a former residential school last year spurred initial calls around the world for justice and transparency.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation Kúkpi7 (Chief) Rosanne Casimir told Global News she hopes the Pope will end up visiting B.C. during his trip.
“When I think about the impact of (the discoveries on) our survivors and inter-generational survivors, it really truly would be a travesty if he came to Canada and not visited the First Nation community that’s been directly impacted from unmarked graves,” Casimir said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the Holy Father to deliver a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system in Canada during his trip.
“This would be an important – and necessary – step for the Roman Catholic Church to continue engaging in dialogue with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis in order to advance meaningful reconciliation for Indigenous Peoples in our country,” he said in a statement.
“For far too long, this has been a burden carried by Indigenous Peoples alone. I encourage all Canadians to watch this historic moment and reflect on the impacts of colonialism.”
Canada’s residential school system locked away more than 150,000 Indigenous children, ripping them from their families and culture in an effort to destroy Indigenous identities.
Thousands died from abuse, disease and malnutrition, and countless more were subjected to sickening physical and sexual violence by priests and nuns.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.