On the agenda is the 2nd most northern spot ever to be visited by a pope.
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Pope Francis will make a pilgrimage to Canada from July 24 to 30, 2022, the Holy See announced May 13. He will visit the cities of Edmonton, Quebec, and Iqaluit. The seven-day trip should allow the Pontiff to revisit the complex and painful history of the Catholic Church’s relations with the country’s indigenous peoples.
From March 28 to April 1, Pope Francis received three delegations of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples – the First Nations, Inuit and Métis – at length at the Vatican. He asked for forgiveness for the actions of Church members, particularly in the management of residential schools for Aboriginal children in the 19th and 20th centuries. At the end of this intense sequence, the Pontiff said he wanted to meet with them in Canada on the occasion of the feast of St. Anne, July 26, a particularly important celebration for Catholics in the country.
The Pontiff will honor this wish and will visit the vast country for an entire week. First, he is expected in Edmonton, capital of the province of Alberta, a prairie region in the west where the indigenous population is still numerous (6.5% of the population). He will then go to Quebec City, capital of the eponymous province, the only predominantly French-speaking region in Canada.
The Pontiff will then travel to Iqaluit, land of the Inuit. Located on Baffin Island, this small town has a population of less than 7,500. It will be only the second most northerly destination visited by a pope, John Paul II having gone to Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1984, which is slightly closer to the pole.
In the footsteps of John Paul II
In Canada, Pope Francis will walk in the footsteps of the Polish Pontiff, who visited for 11 days, from September 9 to 20, 1984. During his long journey, he visited many cities, including Edmonton and Quebec City, but also Vancouver, Winnipeg, Fort Simpson, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Trois-Rivières, St. John’s, Halifax and Moncton, crossing the American continent from one side to the other.
In 1987, John Paul II returned to Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories to visit the Aboriginal peoples. Finally, he went to Toronto for World Youth Day (WYD) in 2002. His successor, Benedict XVI, never visited Canada during his pontificate.
Good news for Africa, less so for Lebanon
While some observers questioned the Pope’s ability to travel despite his knee, this official trip to Canada shows that the 85-year-old Pontiff feels physically ready to travel. The announcement of this visit to North America at the end of July confirms the de facto visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, scheduled for July 2-7, which was made official on March 3. After the cancellation of the trip to Lebanon, which was planned in June, some wondered if the trip to Africa would take place.
This formalization of the trip to Canada may also provide another key to understanding the suspension of the trip to Lebanon. On May 9, Lebanon’s Minister of Tourism announced the postponement of the visit, citing “health reasons.” But it is also possible that other reasons encouraged Francis to make this decision. Since the summit organized in the Vatican last July with the patriarchs and Christian leaders in Lebanon, it seems that they have not made the necessary efforts to agree and respond collectively to the terrible crisis in the land of the Cedars.
Moreover, the proximity of the results of the May 15 legislative elections may have dampened his motivation, with some voices among the clergy considering that there was a risk of political exploitation.