Pope Francis will meet with indigenous leaders and hostel survivors July 24-29, the Vatican says.
Warning: The following story contains details of boarding schools that may be disturbing. Canada’s Indian Residential School Survivors and Family Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at 1-866-925-4419.
Montreal Canada – Pope Francis will begin his visit to Canada next month with a meeting with survivors of Indigenous shelters in the western province of Alberta, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said.
The Vatican released the timetable for the trip on Thursday, with the Pope scheduled to arrive in Edmonton, Alberta, on July 24.
The next day, he will visit the Maskwacis community, which was home to one of Canada’s largest boarding schools, Ermineskin Residential School.
“The Holy Father will join former boarders from across the country in a formal program. Alberta has the largest number of former boarding schools in Canada,” the CCCB said.
Pope Francis’ visit comes after he apologized on April 1 for the abuses committed by members of the Roman Catholic Church to indigenous children who were forced to attend Canadian boarding schools.
The apology, made after days of talks with Indigenous delegates in Rome, was long-sought by boarding school survivors, whose calls for justice and accountability grew louder last year when unmarked graves were discovered at several former school sites.
Many survivors and leaders of indigenous communities have called on the pope to come to Canada to make an apology for indigenous land.
Canada forced more than 150,000 First Nations, Inuit and Metis children to attend boarding schools across the country between the late 19th century and the 1990s.
Thousands are believed to have died while attending the facilities, which were established and funded by the state but run by various religious denominations, particularly the Catholic Church.
“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 has taken place,” said Archbishop Richard Smith, general coordinator of the papal visit to Rome Canada, said in Thursday’s CCCB statement.
“We pray that this pilgrimage will be another meaningful step on the long journey of healing, reconciliation and hope.”
In Edmonton, the pope will also attend an open-air mass at Commonwealth Stadium to celebrate the feast of St. Anne on July 26. He will then travel to Lac Ste Anne for an annual pilgrimage, the CCCB said.
The next day, Pope Francis will travel to Quebec City, where he is expected to meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General Mary Simon and Indigenous leaders, the Vatican said.
He will celebrate Mass on July 28 at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, one of North America’s oldest pilgrimage sites. According to the CCCB, up to 15,000 people are expected.
On July 29, the Pope will travel to the final stop of his trip to Iqualuit in the Northern Territory of Nunavut, where he will hold a private meeting with residential home survivors before attending a public event.