Pope Francis’ visit to Canada will continue despite ongoing health concerns

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Pope Francis will travel to Canada as planned next month, the Vatican announced Thursday, confirming that the long-planned trip will continue even as the Catholic religious leader struggles with health issues.

The Pope, who will be in Canada July 24-29 with stops in Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit, is coming here to apologize in person for the abuses suffered by Indigenous peoples at the hands of the Catholic Church.

“We know that the Holy Father was deeply moved by his meeting with indigenous peoples in Rome earlier this year, and that he hopes to build on the important dialogue that took place,” Archbishop Richard said. Smith, organizer of the Pope’s visit to Canada, said in a statement.

“We pray that this pilgrimage will be another meaningful step in the long journey of healing, reconciliation and hope,” Smith said.

According to an itinerary released by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, the pope will begin the visit to Edmonton with a brief ceremony at the airport before calling it a day to rest after a long flight from Europe.

The next day, July 25, he will meet with survivors at the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School in the community of Maskwacis, south of the city. Ermineskin, which operated between 1916 and 1973, was one of the largest residential school sites in the country.

Pope Francis holds an audience in the Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace with Indigenous delegations from Canada at the Vatican, April 1, 2022. (Photo for distribution via Reuters)

Later in the day, Francis is due to visit the Church of the Sacred Heart of the First Peoples, an aboriginal church in the city’s downtown – a church that was recently restored after a devastating fire in 2020.

On July 26, the Pope will celebrate an outdoor Mass at the city’s 56,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium, an event that will be open to the public. The Canadian bishops said the service will incorporate Indigenous traditions as part of the gathering.

He will then go to Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta, a place of pilgrimage where, for more than a century, First Nations and Métis Catholics have traveled to celebrate the feast of Saint Anne, said to be the mother of Mary and the maternal grandmother of Jesus.

The next stop is Quebec City, where the pope will meet with the prime minister and governor general at La Citadelle and then deliver a public address.

On July 28, he will preside over a mass at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica, a national sanctuary, where some 10,000 to 15,000 guests are expected. Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré is one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites in North America, regularly attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to a place where several miracles are said to have occurred.

Later in the day, he will participate in an evening prayer service with bishops, priests, deacons and seminarians at the Basilica-Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Québec.

The Canadian bishops have said the public will be able to participate in Quebec events as there will be a dedicated area on the Plains of Abraham on July 27 and 28 where people can witness “indigenous cultural expression” and watch papal events in the province on big screens.

On July 29, the pope will meet with a delegation of Indigenous people from eastern Canada before heading north to Iqaluit.

While in Nunavut, the pope will participate in a private meeting with residential school survivors and host a delegation of youth and elders at a local elementary school before returning to Rome.

Trip to Africa canceled

There were fears in some circles that the pope would cancel the Canada visit after the Vatican ended another of its foreign trips – a multi-day tour of Africa scheduled for early July.

Vatican officials say Pope must forgo planned trip to Republic of Congo and South Sudan ‘at the request of his doctors’ so as not to ‘jeopardize results of therapy he is undergoing for his knee’ .

The pope was due to travel to South Sudan with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the head of the Church of Scotland to issue a joint ecumenical appeal for peace in the war-torn country.

Due to ongoing health issues – the pope was recently seen in a wheelchair due to mobility issues – the Canadian bishops say it is expected that the pope’s attendance at public events will be ‘limited to approximately one hour’ .

The pope uses a wheelchair due to strained ligaments in his right knee which have made walking and standing difficult and painful.

So far he has refused surgery and instead received injections, kept the knee as still as possible and walked with a cane or the help of an assistant.

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