Earlier today, the Vatican formally announced that Pope Francis will travel to Canada from July 24-29, 2022. The historic visit, focused on Indigenous healing and reconciliation, will be the fourth papal journey to Canada and the first since Saint John Paul II’s visit in 2002.
Bishop Raymond Poisson, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) welcomed the formal confirmation of the visit on behalf of Canada’s Catholic Bishops: “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. 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.”
Canada’s Catholic Bishops welcomed Pope Francis’ apology to Indigenous Peoples for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system. The Holy Father expressed “sorrow and shame” for the abuse and lack of respect for Indigenous identities, culture, and spiritual values in the residential school system.
The Holy Father’s apology was informed by private encounters between March 28th and April 1st with 32 Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors and youth representing the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), the Métis National Council (MNC), and the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK).
Given the vast landscape of Canada, the limited time period for the visit and considering the health of the 85-year-old Pontiff, the Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will adopt only three communities as a base for his Canadian visit: Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit. The locations will limit travel for the Holy Father while still allowing an opportunity for both intimate and public encounters, drawing on participation from all regions of the country.
Edmonton is home to the second largest number of Indigenous Peoples living in urban Canadian centres. In addition, 25 residential schools were located in Alberta, the most of any province or territory in Canada.
Iqaluit, with close to 8,000 people, is home to the highest population of Inuit (3,900) of all Canadian cities with more than 5,000 people. Pope Francis was personally invited by Inuit delegates to visit the North during their meetings in March.
Quebec City provides an eastern hub for those who may wish to travel to see Pope Francis, especially Indigenous Peoples of the East. The region is also home to Ste. Anne-de-Beaupré, one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites in North America, drawing Indigenous Peoples and others from throughout Canada and around the world each year.
The Pope’s visit will provide a unique opportunity for him, once again, to listen and dialogue with Indigenous Peoples, to express his heartfelt closeness and to address the impact of colonization and the participation of the Catholic Church in the operation of residential schools throughout Canada. The papal visit will also provide an opportunity for the shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to connect with the Catholic community in Canada.
While dates and general locations have been confirmed by the Vatican, specific sites and a formal program will be developed in dialogue with Indigenous partners at the local and national level. Given the focus on Indigenous healing and reconciliation, the Holy Father is expected to visit the site of a former residential school and other locations of particular significance.
Typically, six to eight weeks prior to a papal visit, a full program and itinerary are released by the Vatican. At that time, the public will have an opportunity to learn more about how they may participate in the numerous events and related activities for the papal visit, along with volunteer opportunities and other relevant details.
The CCCB has appointed Archbishop Richard Smith as General Co-ordinator for the Papal Visit, to guide this immense undertaking on behalf of the Canadian Bishops. As Archbishop of Edmonton, the Archbishop also accompanied Indigenous delegates to the Vatican earlier this year and has long-standing relationships with Indigenous leaders.
Archbishop Smith commented on the appointment: “I am humbled to serve as General Co-ordinator for this historic visit from Pope Francis. I look forward to working with Indigenous Peoples from across this land, as well as local, provincial and federal partners, as we prepare to welcome the Holy Father and continue to walk together on this important healing and reconciliation journey.”
The Catholic Church has a responsibility to take genuine and meaningful steps to journey with Indigenous Peoples of this land on the lengthy path to healing and reconciliation. A website was specifically created to openly discuss the papal visit to Canada. This web site will provide information on the historic journey of Pope Francis to Canada, a significant step on the road to truth, understanding and healing. We invite you to join us as we reflect, pray and prepare to welcome the Holy Father for these special days among us.
The Bishops of Canada, as a tangible expression of their commitment to walk with the Indigenous Peoples of this land along the pathway of hope, have made a nation-wide collective financial commitment to support healing and reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families, and their communities. The Canadian Bishops announced a $30M National financial pledge to support healing and reconciliation initiatives. The Eparchy of Edmonton specifically pledged $100 000 to support healing and reconciliation projects in Canada. To show our support for this important step in healing and reconciliation, a special collection will be initiated in the month of June 2022 and, will be followed by a call to our parishes and community for projects supporting the priorities of the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund. The Eparchy of Edmonton is grateful to work with Indigenous partners, as well as faithful members of the Ukrainian Catholic community to contribute to a more hopeful future based on mutual respect and commitment to moving forward together.
“But now, above all, it is a time to listen attentively to our Indigenous brothers and sisters, no matter how painful the reality of Residential Schools. They must speak. We must listen. Only then will truth be told, and heard, with the hope of reconciliation and a strengthening of the bond of our two peoples.” ~Bishop David
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