Pope Francis’ visit to Canada could include stops in Alberta, Quebec: source

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Pope Francis could be making stops in Alberta and Quebec during his visit to Canada, Global News has learned.

“But, trip details have not been finalized yet,” a source with knowledge of the visit confirmed to Global News on Friday.

Plans for a papal visit were initially announced two weeks ago, when Indigenous delegates from Canada were in Rome.

During their visit to the Vatican, the Pope also delivered an apology for the harm caused by some clergy members who operated the church and state sponsored residential school system.

Read more: Pope Francis could play ‘instrumental role’ seeking justice for abuse survivors: Inuit leader

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The apology came over 25 years after the last residential school closed in Canada. It has been met with mixed opinion over whether it was sufficient.

‘As a child when I was in residential school…I never thought I’d see the day that I would see the Pope coming to Canada,” Geraldine Shingoose, a residential school survivor from Winnipeg, told Global News Friday.

“It was a very hard time during those nine years — to be away from my family,” Shingoose said. “It’s still painful. It still hurts and he needs to acknowledge our pain and our hurt.”

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Canada’s residential school system locked away more than 150,000 Indigenous children, taking them from their families in an effort to undermine Indigenous identity. Thousands died from abuse, disease and malnutrition, and countless more were subjected to physical and sexual violence by priests and nuns.

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The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) told Global News Friday they have had conversations with Indigenous peoples about potential sites for the Pope’s visit but final details are yet to be confirmed.

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“Given the Holy Father’s advanced age and desire for simple, modest visits, we can expect the Canadian visit to reflect this reality in both the length of the pilgrimage as well as the geography of such a visit, given the size of Canada,” a spokesperson for CCCB told Global News in an email.

“We can anticipate that the visit to Canada will be very different than those of the past,” reads the email, noting themes, focus and programming will be shaped in close consultation with Indigenous partners.

Pope Francis presides over the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) torchlight procession on Good Friday in front of Rome’s Colosseum, in Rome, Friday, April 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Last year, as First Nations throughout Canada detected close over 1,000 unmarked burial sites on former residential schoolgrounds, the CCCB released an unequivocal apology for the harm done by the schools, and promised $30 million over five years would be put toward reconciliation. 

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Calgary Bishop William McGratten previously confirmed the church would not pay funds it had previously agreed upon and failed to deliver. Instead the church is starting anew on that commitment.

Although Pope Francis committed to visiting Indigenous families in Canada, he did not say whether he would again apologize on their homeland.

However, the archbishop of Edmonton, Richard Smith, said he believes the pontiff wants to make another apology in Canada. The Pope also made it clear to the bishops that an apology needs to be followed up with concrete action, especially at the local level, according to Smith.

Read more: ‘A lot more that needs to happen’: Southern Alberta First Nations react to Pope Francis’ apology

“I certainly hope he makes his way across the provinces where they discovered the burials of the missing children,” said Jennifer Wood, a residential school survivor from Winnipeg. “It would be a total disappointment if he came to our country and never went to the grounds where our children were buried and discovered. It would send ripples of disappointment.

– With files from Global News’ Heather Yourex-West, Elizabeth McSheffrey

The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.

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