VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis, battling a bad knee, is moving forward with plans to visit Canada this summer so he can apologize especially for the abuse suffered by indigenous peoples by the hands of the Catholic Church.
The Vatican announced on Friday that Francis would travel to Canada on July 24 and visit Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit, a small town where about half the residents are Inuit, before returning to Rome on July 30.
Last month, Francis issued a historic apology for abuses at church-run residential colleges in Canada. He mentioned that he had to travel to Canada to personally send apologies to survivors of misguided Catholic missionary zeal.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis “accepts the invitation of civil and ecclesiastical authorities and indigenous communities” in making what the Holy See has called an “apostolic journey.”
The Vatican said details of the trip to Canada could be made public in the coming weeks. The Canadian bishops said the pope was to visit the site of a former residential faculty, as well as “other places of particular importance”.
Travel to Canada is geographically restricted due to the pope’s health issues. “Given the vast landscape of Canada, the limited time for the visit and considering the state of health of the 85-year-old pontiff,” only three communities will serve as the base for the trip, says the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a press release.
“The places will limit the movements of the Holy Father while nevertheless allowing a possibility for each of intimate and public meetings, relying on the participation of all regions of the country”, indicates the press release.
With the trip to Canada, Francis, 85, will test his endurance. After weeks of limping due to what the Vatican said was a very strained knee ligament, Francis has started to arrive at some public appearances in a wheelchair, although on Sunday he stood at a window of the Apostolic Palace to greet the pilgrims and vacationers at St. Peter’s Square.
When the Vatican confirmed the trip, Francis used a wheelchair to make a public appearance in a Vatican auditorium. He took advantage of his speech in front of the members of an Italian airline to once again denounce the war in Ukraine.
Even before the trip to Canada, he will face another mobility problem. At the beginning of July, he is due to travel to Congo and South Sudan, a visit which he hopes will promote reconciliation.
Recently, the Lebanese authorities declared that the hoped visit of the pope in June would not take place.
The Catholic bishops of Canada welcomed the news of Francis’ visit to their country.
“We are immensely grateful that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation to continue the journey of healing and reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of this land,” said Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the convention of Canadian bishops.
Poisson added, “We pray for the health of the Holy Father as we undertake intensive planning for this historic visit.”
On April 1, as indigenous representatives traveled to the Vatican for personal meetings with Francis, the pontiff expressed “his sadness and shame” for the abuses and lack of respect for non-identities, tradition and values. indigenous lay people within the residential faculty system.
Edmonton is home to the second highest number of Aboriginal people staying in city facilities in Canada. In a reference to the unfortunate legacy of abuse, the convention noted that “an additional 25 residential schools were located in Alberta, most of any province or territory in Canada”.
During the pope’s conferences with the native delegates on the Vatican, the Inuit delegates invited him to visit the northern reaches of Canada.
The bishops said a stop in Quebec would provide a hub for indigenous people in Japanese Canada who want to see the pope. The region is also home to one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in North America, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.’