Canada: Pope Begins Historic Visit, Seeking Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples (Updated)

The 19,000 kilometer journey, between July 24 and 30, is presented by Francis as a “penitential pilgrimage”

Photo: Lusa/EPA

Vatican City, July 24, 2022 (Ecclesia) – The Pope today began his 37th international journey, traveling more than 19,000 kilometers on a “penitential” pilgrimage to Canada, in search of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Addressing the approximately 80 media professionals who accompanied him on the Ita Airways Airbus A330, Francisco stressed that it was a “penitential journey”, asking everyone to do so in this mind.

The conversation also touched on the celebration, this Sunday, of the Second World Day of Grandparents and Older Persons: “Young people must have contact with their grandparents”.

Shortly before departure, at 9:16 a.m. in Rome (one less in Lisbon), the pope left a message on Twitter: “Dear brothers and sisters of Canada, I come to you to meet the indigenous peoples. I hope that with the grace of God, my penitential pilgrimage will be able to contribute to the path of reconciliation already undertaken. Please accompany me in prayer.

Recalling the particular devotion of the indigenous peoples to Saint Anne, grandmother of Jesus, Francis grants the desire to celebrate this liturgical feast precisely in Canadian territory, next July 26.

The tour, which runs until July 30, passes through the cities of Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit – home to the largest number of Inuit.

Francis is the second pope to visit Canada, having received Saint John Paul II three times: 1984, 1987 and 2002.

Speaking to reporters, the director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, stressed that the trip aims to “continue the path of reconciliation undertaken in recent months with the Métis, Inuit and First Nations”, indigenous peoples affected during the colonial era by cultural assimilation policies

Invited by the civil, indigenous and religious authorities of Canada, Francis leaves Rome at 9 a.m. this Sunday (one less in Lisbon), for a seven-hour flight, arriving in Edmonton, capital of the province of Alberta, at 11:20 a.m. (6:20 p.m. in Lisbon), before moving to the São José Seminary.

On April 1, at the Vatican, the pope asked “forgiveness” for the involvement of Catholics in the management of residential schools for indigenous peoples in Canada, in front of representatives of these communities, confessing “indignation and shame”.

“For the deplorable behavior of some Catholics, I ask forgiveness from God. I want to tell you with all my heart: I am very sad. I join the Canadian bishops in asking for your forgiveness,” Francis said, following a series of meetings with First Nations, Métis and Inuit delegations.

The pope spoke of a “colonization without respect” which caused a “tragedy” in indigenous communities, separating families and disregarding cultural identities or spiritual values.

“All of this is contrary to the gospel of Jesus,” he argued.

During the journeythe Pope has scheduled nine interventions – four speeches, four homilies and a greeting to the representatives of the indigenous peoples.

The first stage of the visit, in Edmonton, is entirely dedicated to the indigenous populations of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit, evoking the victims of the so-called “boarding schools”, created by the government and entrusted to the Christian Churches, including the Catholic.

On July 26, the liturgical feast of Saint Joachim and Saint Anne, grandparents of Jesus, Francis takes part in the traditional pilgrimage that has taken place for centuries on the homonymous lake, about 72 kilometers from Edmonton.


In Quebec, traditional meetings with civil authorities and the Catholic community and a celebration for reconciliation, with the particular participation of indigenous communities, take place at the Sanctuary of Santa Ana de Beaupré.

At the same time, a group of indigenous representatives to walk 275 kilometers from Quebec, during a demonstration in support of residential school survivors.

The “First Nations” are the people present on Canadian territory before the arrival of Europeans; the “Métis” (mestizos) were born from the encounter between indigenous peoples and Europeans, having a specific, officially recognized identity; the “Inuit” are the peoples of the northern lands, close to the Arctic, commonly called Eskimos.

The Vatican recalls that, in the past, Canada’s policy assumed “the inferiority of indigenous ethnicities and cultures and their inevitable extinction”, a policy of cultural assimilation implemented through the residential school system, spread throughout the country.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which dealt with this historic period, asked the pope in 2015 to seek forgiveness from victims for the role of the Catholic Church “in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical and sexual abuse of First Nations children. Nations, Inuit and Métis”. in boarding schools.

The Catholic Bishops of Canada have created a charity to manage the “Indigenous Reconciliation Fund”, intended to compensate the victims, for a total amount of 30 million dollars.

Last week, a judicial authorization paved the way for the sale of properties in 34 parishes on the island of Newfoundland, on Canada’s Atlantic coast.


News updated at 11:50 a.m.

Francis has made 36 international trips to date, during which he has visited 55 countries: Brazil, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, South Korea, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Ecuador, Bolivia, Paraguay, Cuba, United States of America, Kenya, Uganda, Central African Republic, Mexico, Armenia, Poland, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Sweden, Egypt, Portugal, Colombia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Chile, Peru, Belgium, Ireland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Panama, Arab Emirates States, Morocco, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Romania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Thailand, Japan, Iraq, Slovakia, Cyprus, Greece (after being in Lesbos) and Malta; Strasbourg (France) – where he was in the European Parliament and the Council of Europe -, Tirana (Albania), Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Geneva (Switzerland) and Budapest (Hungary), for the closing of the International Eucharistic Congress.

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Alaric Cohen

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