Pope Francis will visit Canada in July with stops in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut

The Vatican says Pope Francis will stop in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut during his visit to Canada this summer.

It says the capital cities of Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit will act as bases for the July 24-29 trip.

The visit comes after the Pope’s historic apology last month for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools in Canada.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, general coordinator of the trip for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, says it will be another important step toward healing and reconciliation.

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Pope Francis visit to Canada could include stops in Alberta, Quebec: source

Smith says the venues were chosen by the Vatican and the pope’s mobility and health issues had to be considered.

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He says specific sites and a formal program will be developed with indigenous partners.

An estimated 150,000 indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools, and more than 60 percent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

On April 1, following days-long meetings with First Nations, Inuit and Metis groups at the Vatican, Pope Francis apologized for the deplorable conduct of church members involved in residential schools.

“I want to tell you with all my heart: I am very sorry,” Francis said in Italian to a room of nearly 200 indigenous delegates. “And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking for their forgiveness.”

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Francis also said that he would visit Canada.

Indigenous delegates had told the Pope that they expected an apology on Canadian soil. They later said they believe a more over-the-top apology will come during his visit to Canada.

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Smith said the meeting at the Vatican was very powerful and that Francis understood how important it is to bring the apology to indigenous lands and territories.

“I was shaken. He was moved by what he heard,” Smith said.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the three cities were selected based on the length of the trip, the sheer size of Canada and the 85-year-old pontiff’s health.

Francis has started using a wheelchair and has a pronounced limp. He canceled some recent events due to grief.

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Smith said there are limitations on how the Pope can travel. He can no longer travel in helicopters and cannot be in a vehicle for more than an hour. He must also rest between events.

The three selected cities are spread out and give indigenous people across the country more opportunities to see the pope, Smith added.

“This is a pope who wants to heal,” he said. “This is a pope who wants to meet people where they are.”

Edmonton is home to the second largest number of indigenous people living in urban centers and there were 25 residential schools in Alberta.. Lake Ste. Anne, an important site for indigenous people and the site of a large religious pilgrimage each July, is also nearby.

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Iqaluit, located on Nunavut’s Baffin Island, is home to the largest Inuit population.

The Canadian bishops said Quebec City will be a hub for indigenous people, not only in Quebec, but also in the east of the country to see the pope. The city is also close to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, another important pilgrimage site.

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Pope Francis had been asked by many indigenous leaders to visit Kamloops, BC, where the discovery of unmarked graves in a former residential school sparked the first worldwide calls for justice and transparency.

Smith said the pope’s mobility limits where he can go, but Francis is expected to travel to a former residential school on the trip.

The visit would make Francis the second pope to come to Canada.

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In 1984, Pope John Paul II spent 12 days touring the country, landing in Quebec City and touring most of the provinces before heading to Yellowknife. Three years later, he stopped for a day at Fort Simpson, NWT. He returned in 2002 for World Youth Day in Toronto.

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The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their families who are suffering from trauma invoked by the memory of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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