The pope will also visit Quebec City and Iqaluit on his July visit

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Pope Francis will visit Edmonton this July as part of a six-day visit to Canada that will also see him visit two other cities as well as sites of former residential schools, according to the Vatican.

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It says the Pope will visit Edmonton, along with Quebec City and Iqaluit, on his trip from July 24 to 29.

Calling it “wonderful news” Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said he expects the pontiff to use the visit to connect with the city’s Indigenous community and repeat the apology he delivered in April for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

“The Pope is here for the Indigenous people. He’s made that very clear,” he said.

“We’re aware that no single step can eliminate the pain felt by residential school survivors for the victims of generational trauma stemming from residential schools. But we do pray that this papal visit will help to bring about greater healing for the victims and their families.”

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An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools and more than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

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Trip limits

Details of when the Pope will visit each city and what stops he will make are still being determined.

Smith said he expects the itinerary will be finalized in mid-June and will focus on a theme of reconciliation, including a visit to the site of a former residential school.

“It is clearly a priority for all of us that whatever takes place in whatever venue will feature as a priority, as a first concern, Indigenous culture, spirituality and Indigenous ways.”

Archbishop Richard Smith announces the Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Edmonton this July during a news conference in Edmonton, May 13, 2022. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia
Archbishop Richard Smith announces the Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis will visit Edmonton this July during a news conference in Edmonton, May 13, 2022. Ed Kaiser/Postmedia

It will be the fourth papal visit to Canada and the first since Pope John Paul II visited Toronto in 2002. He was the last pope to visit Edmonton, doing so in 1984 as part of a 12-day cross-Canada tour. He also visited the Northwest Territories in 1987.

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Pope Francis is 85 years old, now largely confined to a wheelchair due to a knee issue, and can’t travel in a car for more than an hour at a time, Smith said, noting the pontiff has a visit to Africa scheduled in the weeks prior to coming to Canada.

He expects the travel schedule here to be based on hubs that allow access to meaningful, nearby sites.

“It’s fair to say that they were it not for his desire to engage with Indigenous peoples on their land, he probably would not be coming to Canada,” Smith said.

‘another step’

In a statement issued Friday, the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations welcomed what it ended “a historic visit.”

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“It is my hope that we are on a path to healing and that survivors’ truths are validated,” wrote Grand Chief George Arcand Jr.

Métis Nation of Alberta president Audrey Poitras also welcomed news of the visit in a statement, calling it “another step down the road of reconciliation.”

“We look forward to working with the Holy See to ensure our citizens, especially survivors, will have the opportunity to attend gatherings as part of his visit.”

Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi said the city will consult with First Nations elders ahead of the visit to determine how best to welcome the pontiff.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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