According to a Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) press release, the historic visit will be focused on Indigenous healing and reconciliation as Pope Francis will be stopping in Edmonton, Iqaluit and Quebec City.
The reasoning for the Vatican’s selection of the three stops is to consider the Pope’s health and limit travel for him.
Indigenous partners at a local and national level will develop a program for the papal visit. A full program and itinerary will be released six to eight weeks prior to the visit. The Pope is expected to visit the site of a former residential school and other locations of particular significance.
“We are immensely grateful that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation to continue the journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples of this land,” CCCB president Bishop Raymond Poisson said in a statement.
“In late July, Pope Francis will have the opportunity to visit Indigenous Peoples here in their homeland, as he promised when he met them recently in Rome. We pray for the health of the Holy Father as we undertake the intensive planning for this historic visit.”
The visit comes after the Pope’s historic apology last month for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools in Canada.
Saskatchewan Indigenous leaders had pleaded for the CCCB to work with the Vatican to consider a visit to the province.
On May 9, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) held a media conference in Muskowekwan First Nation where it called on the CCCB to arrange for the July papal visit to include the Muscowequan Indian Residential School.
“The visit to the Vatican to meet with the Holy Father was very meaningful to the delegates who shared the hearts and the truths of the Indigenous people who were either harmed, maimed or even killed by the practices of the Catholic church,” Marie-Anne Day Walker-Pelletier stated in an FSIN media release dated May 9.
“Now, we are receiving word that the Holy Father is not attending Saskatchewan and instead is scheduling on visiting places of pilgrimages that current Indigenous Catholics attend. I must question whether this papal visit is instead a reward for those Indigenous people who still practice the faith rather than a sign of reconciliation or reparations the Catholic church must bring to the Indigenous peoples.”
On April 1, Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system. He expressed “sorrow and shame” for the abuse and lack of respect for Indigenous identities, culture and spiritual values in the residential school system.
Pope Francis will be the fourth pope to journey to Canada and the first since Saint John Paul II’s visit in 2002.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.