Pope Francis embarked on what he called a “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada on July 24. During his time there, he has asked forgiveness for the Catholic Church’s role in running many of the country’s government-sponsored residential schools for indigenous children. These schools, in place until the late 1990s, worked to stamp out aspects of native culture, language, and religious practice. Former students have described mistreatment and abuse.
While much of the trip has centered around St. Anne, who is revered by many indigenous Canadians, the pope is also recognizing St. Anne’s son-in-law, St. Joseph.
The wooden-looking statue, while modern, includes traditional features dating back to the 19th century, the Holy See Press Office said. At the same time, it respects the saint’s depiction as Jesus' “silent guardian.”
St. Joseph embraces the Christ Child with his left arm. With his right hand, he holds the staff that, according to tradition, miraculously bloomed with lilies when the Jerusalem Temple priests were choosing a husband for Mary.
The saint bows his head slightly, as with humility, to symbolize his respect for the child he is carrying.
Pope Francis has a deep devotion to the saint, the press office emphasized. When he first became pope, he celebrated his inauguration on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, whom he held up as his role model and as a protector.