VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis, battling a bad knee, is moving forward with plans to visit Canada this summer so he can apologize in person for the abuses suffered by indigenous peoples at the hands of Catholic Church.
The Vatican announced Friday that Francis would travel to Canada on July 24 and visit Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit, a small town where about half the population is Inuit, before returning to Rome on July 30.
Last month, Francis issued a historic apology for abuses at Church-run residential schools in Canada. He said he wanted to travel to Canada to personally apologize to survivors of misguided Catholic missionary zeal.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis “accepts the invitation of civil and ecclesiastical authorities and indigenous communities” in making what the Holy See has called an “apostolic journey.”
The Vatican said details of the trip to Canada would be made public in the coming weeks. The Canadian bishops have said the pope is to visit the site of a former boarding school, as well as “other places of particular significance”.
Travel to Canada is geographically restricted due to the pope’s health issues. “Given the vast landscape of Canada, the limited time for the visit and considering the state of health of the 85-year-old pontiff,” only three communities will serve as the base for the trip, says the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a press release. .
“The venues will limit the movements of the Holy Father while allowing both intimate and public encounters, relying on the participation of all regions of the country,” the statement said.
With the trip to Canada, Francis, 85, will test his endurance. After weeks of severely limping from what the Vatican said was a severely strained knee ligament, Francis began arriving at some public appearances in a wheelchair, although on Sunday he stood at a window of the Apostolic Palace to greet pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.
As the Vatican has confirmed the trip, Francis used a wheelchair during a public appearance in a Vatican auditorium. He took advantage of his speech in front of the members of an Italian aeronautical agency to once again decry the war in Ukraine.
Even before the trip to Canada, he will face another mobility challenge. In early July, he is due to travel to Congo and South Sudan, a trip he hopes will promote reconciliation.
Recently, the Lebanese authorities declared that the hoped visit of the pope in June would not take place.
The Catholic bishops of Canada have welcomed the announcement of the arrival of Francis in their country.
“We are immensely grateful that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation to continue the journey of healing and reconciliation with the indigenous peoples of this land,” said Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Episcopal Conference.
Poisson added, “We pray for the health of the Holy Father as we undertake intensive planning for this historic visit.”
On April 1, as Indigenous representatives traveled to the Vatican for private meetings with Francis, the pontiff expressed “his sadness and shame” for abuses and lack of respect for Indigenous identities, culture and spiritual values. in the residential school system.
Edmonton is home to the second largest number of Aboriginal people living in Canadian urban centres. In a reference to the sad legacy of abuse, the conference noted that “an additional 25 residential schools were located in Alberta, the most of any province or territory in Canada.”
During the pope’s meetings with the native delegates at the Vatican, the Inuit delegates invited him to visit the northern reaches of Canada.
The bishops said a stop in Quebec would be a hub for indigenous people from eastern Canada who want to see the pope. The region is also home to one of the oldest pilgrimage sites in North America, Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.’