Pope Francis attended the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton’s inner city on Monday afternoon.
Francis was greeted by drummers and singing at the church. Some people wiped tears from their eyes as the pontiff was wheeled into the downtown building.
The century-old church blends Catholic and Indigenous rituals. Francis took a chair placed at the front of the church under wooden teepee poles.
Members of the parish told the Pope they are thrilled to receive him on his first visit to Canada.
The pontiff gave an address to Indigenous Peoples and parish members about reconciliation and received several gifts.
The Pope said he was happy to visit an Edmonton church that welcomes Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
He says the Sacred Heart is a place for all, just as the Catholic Church should be.
He also spoke of his apology earlier in the day at Maskwacis, where he expressed remorse for the church’s role in residential schools in Canada.
“May this never happen again in the Church,” the Pope said. “May Jesus be preached as he desires, in freedom and charity.”
He said it pains him to think that Catholics contributed to policies of assimilation that robbed people of their culture and identity.
Francis also blessed a statue of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Indigenous person to be canonized as a saint.
He held the hands of elders, touching some on the head, as he was wheeled out onto the street — where he unexpectedly greeted some people lining the road.
He waved out the window of a white Fiat as it pulled away.
On Tuesday, the Pope is scheduled to host a large outdoor mass at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium and take part in a pilgrimage in nearby Lac Ste. Anne, before travelling to Quebec City and Iqaluit.
The visit from the Pope is going to be very difficult for a lot of people. If you or someone you know is a residential school survivor and is looking for help, you can call the Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line at 1-800-721-0066.
— More to come…