Pope Francis to visit Indigenous peoples in Canada in July

Pope Francis meets members of the First Nations at the Vatican on March 31, 2022. Pope Francis meets members of the First Nations at the Vatican on March 31, 2022. | Vatican Media

Pope Francis has said that he will travel to Canada in the summer, possibly for the feast of St. Anne on July 26.

He made the announcement during a meeting with Canadian Indigenous leaders at the Vatican on April 1.

“You have brought the living sense of your communities here in Rome,” the pope said. “I will be happy to benefit again from meeting you by visiting your native lands, where your families live.”

“I will not come to you in winter,” he said, adding “see you again in Canada, where I shall be able to express my closeness to you better.”

The Vatican has not yet confirmed a papal trip to Canada, though the Canadian bishops said last year that they would welcome his visit as a “pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.”

Pope Francis said “it gives me joy, for example, to think of the veneration that has spread among many of you for St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. This year I would like to be with you during those days.”

The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Anne on July 26.

The papal audience marked the conclusion of a week-long visit of representatives of the Métis, Inuit, and First Nations peoples to the Vatican. During the week, Pope Francis held private meetings with each group.

The Vatican visit was first organized for 2020, and then rescheduled in the wake of outrage in 2021 over the reported discovery of unmarked graves at the site of former residential schools in Canada.

Last October, Pope Francis indicated his willingness to travel to Canada.

While in Canada, Francis is expected to issue an apology on behalf of the Catholic Church for the abuses committed against Indigenous students in Catholic-run residential schools.

Members of the Métis and Inuit peoples told journalists on March 28 that an apology from Pope Francis in Canada would be very meaningful.

Canadian bishops, who traveled with the Indigenous delegations, described the meetings with Pope Francis as “a listening time” and thanked delegates, who included former students of Canadian residential schools, for their graciousness and honesty with the pope.

Some 150,000 children attended residential schools in the 100 years or so that they operated. The schools, many of them run by Catholic institutions, were a government-led program to suppress the native language and cultural practices of Indigenous peoples.

In the 1980s, former students began to reveal some of the abuses they faced in the schools, including physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

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