Ottawa (Agenzia Fides) - "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". With these words, the Bishop of Saint-Jérome, 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, the official confirmation of the Holy Father's visit. In fact, on May 13, the Holy See Press Office issued the following statement: " Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesiastical Authorities and the indigenous communities, His Holiness Pope Francis will make an Apostolic Journey to Canada from 24 to 30 July 2022. During this time, he will visit the cities of Edmonton, Québec and Iqaluit. The programme and further details of the Journey will be published in the coming weeks".
In this context, the bishops recall the meeting between Francis and indigenous delegates who, accompanied by some Canadian bishops, came to the Vatican from March 28 to April 1 and shared "the stories of those who have suffered at the hands of representatives of the Catholic Church and responded with compassion, regret and a genuine desire for truth, justice and healing". At the end of the meeting, the Pope promised to visit the indigenous peoples on Canadian soil (see Fides, 28/3/2022; 30/3/2022; 2/4/2022; 4/4/2022).
Given the limited time available for the visit, the Bishops' Conference said Pope Francis will only visit three parishes during his visit to Canada: Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit. 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 exact schedule for the meetings and events with Pope Francis in Canada will be finalized in the coming weeks together with representatives of indigenous peoples at local and national levels. Archbishop Richard Smith is responsible for organizing the papal visit on behalf of the bishops' conference. Archbishop Smith of Edmonton also accompanied the indigenous delegation to the Vatican in late March and has long maintained ties with leaders of indigenous communities. 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". (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 16/5/2022)