Two weeks after announcing the postponement of Pope Francis’ trip to Africa due to his knee, the Vatican confirmed his apostolic trip to Canada for July 24-30 by releasing the official program.
The Pope will visit Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit during the six-day trip, which has been arranged with a somewhat lighter schedule than usual, to spare the 85-year-old Pontiff’s health.
On June 10, the Pope had to cancel his trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, scheduled for July 2-7, because of his ongoing therapy for his knee issue, which forces him at times to use a wheelchair. To avoid another cancellation, preparations for the announced trip to Canada take into account the Pontiff’s health: The local bishops assure that the public events in which he will participate will be limited to one hour.
A trip focused on Indigenous Peoples
The visit of the head of the Catholic Church across the Atlantic is part of the process of repentance and reconciliation initiated by the Church in Canada, a process already underway for decades but re-launched with force after the 2021 discovery of mass graves on the grounds of residential schools, some administered by the Church in the 19th and 20th centuries.
At the end of March, the Pontiff received three delegations of Aboriginal peoples at the Vatican, led by the bishops of Canada. During this event, he listened to their testimonies, officially asked for forgiveness for past mistakes by members of the Church, and expressed his desire to visit their lands.
Pope Francis’ program includes many meetings and visits that are directly related to the issue of residential schools, the work of memory, healing and forgiveness, and the promotion of the culture of Aboriginal peoples.
The official program
According to the official program published by the Vatican, the Bishop of Rome will land on July 24 in the late morning at the Edmonton airport in Alberta. Nothing else is planned for the day, to allow the Pope to rest after the 10-hour flight, and various-hour time change, the Canadian bishops said in their statement.
The next day, July 25, the Pope will travel to Maskwacis, the home of the former Ermineskine residential school, one of the largest in the country, about 100 kilometers from Edmonton. He will meet with First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and then conclude the day at the National First Nations Church in Edmonton. The building was recently restored after a devastating fire in 2020.
On July 26, the liturgical feast of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the Pontiff is scheduled to celebrate Mass at Edmonton’s stadium – which has a capacity of 65,000 – and then travel to Lake St. Anne, 75 km from Alberta’s capital. A Catholic gathering has been held there every year since 1886 in honour of Anne, the patron saint of Canadians. Tens of thousands of Cree, Dene, Blackfoot and Métis, who have a special devotion to the grandmother of Jesus, symbolizing the importance of the figure of the elder in their communities, traditionally participate in this pilgrimage.
Stages in Quebec City and Iqaluit
On July 27, the Pope will leave Edmonton for Quebec City, 3,000 kilometers to the east. He will be received at the Residence of the Governor General of Canada, Mary Simon. He will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the country’s civil authorities, and Aboriginal representatives.
On July 28, he will celebrate a mass at the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people are expected to attend this pilgrimage site, which attracts more than one million people each year. At the end of the day, he will meet with the priests and religious of the province.
On the last day, July 29, he will travel to Iqaluit, 2,000 kilometers to the north. Before leaving, the Pontiff will meet with the Jesuits of Quebec and a delegation of Native Peoples. He will then fly to Nunavut Territory, where he will meet with former students of the Catholic residential school in Iqaluit. There, he will also meet with youth and seniors, the last meeting of the trip.
A total of four speeches, four homilies and a greeting are planned during the six-day trip, whose motto is “Walking Together.” The logo represents a blue and white ring uniting wildlife symbols.