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Pope Francis in Canada for ‘apology tour’

The Vatican has called the trip a “penitential pilgrimage,” and the Pope will be welcomed in Edmonton on Sunday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Simon, the Governor General of Canada…reports Asian Lite News

Pope Francis will be visiting Canada to apologize for Indigenous abuse in Catholic residential schools.

He departed from Rome on Sunday for a week-long trip to Edmonton, Canada, where he’s set to apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse of Canadian Indigenous children, reported CNN.

The Vatican has called the trip a “penitential pilgrimage,” and the Pope will be welcomed in Edmonton on Sunday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Simon, the Governor General of Canada.

He will meet with Indigenous groups and address the scandal of abuse and erasure of indigenous culture in the country’s residential schools, reported CNN.

Indigenous leaders have long called for a papal apology for the harm inflicted for decades on Indigenous children.

Last year, hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of former residential schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan, reported CNN.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has reported that more than 4,000 Indigenous children died either from neglect or abuse in residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church.

In April, the Pope told Indigenous leaders at the Vatican that he feels “sorrow and shame for the role that a number of Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that wounded you, in the abuses you suffered and in the lack of respect shown for your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values.”

The Pope will also travel to Quebec and Iqaluit, the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, during the trip. Two Canadian cardinals will accompany him throughout his visit, Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal Michael Czerny, reported CNN.

Francis, earlier trip to Africa was cancelled this month due to issues with his knee which had stirred speculation about his retirement.

He said in an interview with UK media that he still intends to visit Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, but he has received criticism for prioritizing that destination over visiting Ukraine, and for partially blaming NATO for Russia’s invasion.

“I would like to go, it is possible that I manage to go to Ukraine. The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help, but I would like to go to both capitals,” Francis said.

In a June interview with Italian newspaper La Stampa, Francis said the war “was perhaps in some way either provoked or not prevented,” reported CNN.

Pope Francis said that before Russia invaded Ukraine he met with “a head of state” who “was very worried about how NATO was moving.”

Pope Francis’ Canada visit – which he has called a “penitential pilgrimage” of “healing and reconciliation” – is primarily to apologise to survivors for the Church’s role in the scandal that a national truth and reconciliation commission has called “cultural genocide”.

From the late 1800s to the 1990s, Canada’s government sent about 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children into 139 residential schools run by the Church, where they were cut off from their families, language and culture. Many were physically and sexually abused by headmasters and teachers.

Thousands of children are believed to have died of disease, malnutrition or neglect.

Since May 2021, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered at the sites of the former schools.

In the community of Maskwacis, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Edmonton, the pope will address an estimated crowd of 15,000 expected to include former students from across the country.

Others see the pope’s visit as too little too late, including Linda McGilvery with the Saddle Lake Cree Nation near Saint Paul, about 200 kilometres east of Edmonton.

After a mass before tens of thousands of faithful in Edmonton on July 26, the pope will head northwest to an important pilgrimage site, the Lac Sainte Anne.

Following a visit to Quebec City from July 27-29, he will end his trip in Iqaluit, home to the largest Inuit population in Canada, where he will meet with former residential school students, before returning to Italy.

Pope Francis is the second pope to visit Canada, after John Paul II, who visited three times (1984, 1987 and 2002).

Some 44% of Canada’s population is Catholic.

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