The Holy Father asked the press to see the pilgrimage in a "penitential" light, as he had styled it last Sunday.
On the plane taking him to Canada, Pope Francis improvised a few words to the 76 journalists accompanying him, telling them it was a “penitential” trip. “Let’s do it in that spirit,” he requested.
Last Sunday, after praying the midday Angelus at St. Peter’s, the Holy Father described the trip that way:
Dear brothers and sisters of Canada, as you know, I will come among you above all in the name of Jesus to meet and embrace the indigenous peoples. Unfortunately, in Canada, many Christians, including some members of religious institutes, have contributed to the policies of cultural assimilation that, in the past, have severely harmed native communities in various ways. For this reason, I recently received some groups in the Vatican, representatives of indigenous peoples, to whom I expressed my sorrow and solidarity for the harm they have suffered. I am about to embark on a penitential pilgrimage, which I hope, with God’s grace, will contribute to the journey of healing and reconciliation already undertaken. I thank you in advance for all the work of preparation and for the welcome you will give me. Thank you all! And I ask you to please accompany me with prayer.
Taking, as usual, the time to go and greet the representatives of the press one by one, the 85-year-old Pontiff also assured some of them that he still wants to go to Kiev. In a recent interview, he had said that he would like to look into this possibility on his return from Canada.
The Holy Father was able to walk through the aisle of the plane to greet the journalists. However, it is expected that for his public appearances in Canada, he will be in a wheelchair.
With only four homilies and four addresses, this trip has a reduced itinerary, compared to the grueling schedule that normally characterizes papal journeys. The organizers in Canada reduced the Pope’s activities to ensure that he would still be able to make the trip, after he cancelled an Africa visit that had been scheduled for early July.
Angelus on board
The weekly Angelus, usually recited every Sunday in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, will not be held upon his arrival in Canada, as the Pontiff wished to reserve his first words for the Indigenous peoples.
Pope Francis took the opportunity to propose a sort of Angelus address in flight, and offered some reflections on the role of the elderly, recalling that the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly is being celebrated this year today, July 24.
He invited the younger generations to take advantage of this day to “return to their roots.” Quoting the poet Francisco Luis Bernárdez, he recalled that: “Everything that the tree has of flowers comes from what it has buried” and invited everyone to learn from the “life experience” of the elderly.
“We have received so much from them,” he insisted, highlighting not only grandparents but also “elderly religious,” who “are the wisdom of a religious family” and saying that novices need to spend time with the elderly religious.
“Each of us has grandfathers and grandmothers,” he said, “some are gone, some are alive; let us remember them today in a special way.