Pope to visit Canada to apologize for Aboriginal abuse

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis, who has been using a wheelchair because of a knee injury, will continue to plan a visit to Canada this summer so he can personally apologize for the abuse suffered by Aboriginal people in the Catholic church.

The Vatican announced Friday that Francis will travel to Canada on July 24, visiting Edmonton, Quebec, and Iqaluit, the country’s northernmost town. About half of the population of Iqaluit is Inuit. The Pope left Canada on July 29 and arrived in Rome the next day.

Last month, Francis issued a historic apology for abuse at a Canadian church-run boarding school and expressed “sadness and shame” for the lack of respect for Aboriginal identity, cultural and spiritual values.

He said at the time that he wanted to go to Canada to personally apologize to the misguided Catholic missionary zealous survivors.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis “accepted the invitation of civil and ecclesiastical authorities, as well as indigenous communities” to undertake what the Holy See said was an “apostolic journey”.

The Vatican said details of the trip to Canada will be released in the coming weeks. The Pope will visit the site of at least one former boarding school, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton said.

Smith said Francis had received invitations to visit communities across the country, but he could only visit a small subset of them due to logistical issues.

“It’s the Pope’s limited ability to really direct this,” Smith said. “The Vatican chose these three locations for a variety of reasons – to see how we can have a meaningful impact on a very, very limited scale.”

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that Francis would “formally apologise to the Roman Catholic Church for the enduring pain and suffering caused by its role in running the boarding school for the country’s indigenous people.”

“His Holiness’s upcoming visit would not have been possible without the courage and determination of the survivors, Aboriginal leaders and young people who share their stories,” the prime minister said in a written statement.

Trudeau said a formal in-person apology would be “an important and necessary step for the Roman Catholic Church to continue its dialogue with Aboriginal, Inuit and Métis to advance our meaningful reconciliation among our Indigenous peoples. .nation.”

“For too long, this has been a burden on Indigenous peoples alone. I encourage all Canadians to watch this historic moment and reflect on the impact of colonialism,” Trudeau said of the upcoming papal visit.

On April 1, when indigenous representatives visited the Vatican for a private meeting with Francis, the Pope expressed “sorrow and shame” over the mistreatment and lack of respect for indigenous identities, cultural and spiritual values ​​in the boarding school system.

A trip to Canada has been geographically restricted due to the Pope’s health concerns.

“Given the size of Canada, the limited visit time and the health of the 85-year-old pope,” the Conference of Catholic Bishops of Canada said in a statement, “only three communities will serve as bases for the trip.”

“These locations will limit the Pope’s travel while still allowing opportunities for intimate and public contact and attracting participation from all regions of the country,” the statement said.

With the trip to Canada, Francis, 85, will test his endurance. After suffering a severe limp a few weeks later due to what the Vatican said was a severe strain of a ligament in his knee, Francis began making some public appearances in a wheelchair, although he did stand in front of the windows of the Apostolic Palace on Sunday to greet pilgrims and visitors in St Peter’s Square.

In a public appearance in a Vatican auditorium on Friday, the Pope once again condemned Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Canadian bishop also welcomed the announcement of the trip.

“We are very grateful to the Pope for accepting our invitation to continue his journey of healing and reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of this land,” said Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Canada.

Poisson added: “As we intensively plan for this historic visit, we pray for the Pope’s health.”

Even before the trip to Canada, Francis will face another liquidity challenge. In early July, he plans to travel to Congo and South Sudan, a trip he hopes will promote reconciliation.

More recently, Lebanese authorities said that the Pope’s June visit would not happen.

Edmonton is home to the second largest number of Aboriginal people living in Canada’s urban centres. Referring to the tragic legacy of abuse, the meeting noted, “In addition, Alberta has 25 boarding schools, the most of any province or territory in Canada.”

During the Pope’s meeting with Aboriginal representatives at the Vatican, Inuit representatives invited him to visit Canada’s northern territories.

The bishops said a stop in Quebec City would provide a hub for eastern Canada’s First Nations who want to meet the Pope.

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