Canadian Bishops: 'Pope's July visit a step toward healing, reconciliation'
Indigenous people from Canada present the Pope with a stole during an audience on 1 April 2022 (Vatican Media)
“The Holy Father’s pilgrimage will focus on Indigenous healing and reconciliation, while also providing the shepherd of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics an opportunity to encounter the faithful in Canada.”
The country’s Catholic Bishops’ Conference offered that take on Pope Francis’ scheduled Apostolic Journey in a statement on Thursday, shortly after the Holy See Press Office released the programme for his visit.
The Pope is set to arrive in the western city of Edmonton on 24 July, before heading east to Quebec and then returning to Rome on 29 July.
His will be the fourth papal visit to Canada and the first since St. John Paul visited in 2002.
"Limited length of events"
Canada’s Bishops note that the Pope has relatively few appointments each day, due to his ongoing knee pain which forced him to postpone his visit to South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, previously set for 2-7 July.
"Due to his advanced age and limitations, it is expected that participation by Pope Francis at public events will be limited to approximately one hour."
The Apostolic Journey will be focused on the theme “Walking Together”, and will see the Pope hold various encounters with Indigenous peoples.
Archbishop Richard Smith, the local General Coordinator of the visit, commented on the programme:
"We know that the Holy Father was deeply moved by his encounter with Indigenous Peoples in Rome earlier this year, and that he hopes to build on the important dialogue that took place. We pray this pilgrimage will serve as another meaningful step in the long journey of healing, reconciliation and hope."
Pilgrimage in honour of St. Anne
Pope Francis starts his Apostolic Journey to Canada in Edmonton, the capital city of the western Alberta province.
The Bishops say Alberta is “home to the largest number of former residential schools in Canada”, and note that the Pope will meet with former residential school students from across the country.
As the Church celebrates the feast of St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, on 26 July, the Pope will celebrate an open-air Mass in Edmonton.
Canada’s Bishops note that St. Anne is particularly venerated by Indigenous Catholics, adding that the Pope will travel to Lac St. Anne, which tens of thousands of pilgrims visit each year.
Focus on healing and reconciliation
After flying to the eastern city of Quebec on 28 July, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, “one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites in North America”.
Over a million visitors travel there each year, including annual Indigenous pilgrimages.
The Pope’s meeting with the Bishops of Canada will then lead to the Bishops and Indigenous leaders holding a dinner “focused on friendship and ongoing dialogue”.
Pope Francis wraps up his Apostolic Journey to Canada with a stop in Iqaluit on 29 July, where he will meet with Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors. The papal plane is scheduled to land in Rome on the morning of 30 July.
by Devin WatkinsVatican News