The Pope thanks the Virgin Mary for her protection during his pilgrimage to Canada

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Pope Francis returns to Rome at the end of his apostolic trip to Canada and stops at Santa Maria Maggiore to thank God for blessing his “penitential pilgrimage”.

By Devin Watkins

As tradition dictates, the pope made a brief stopover at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major on Saturday morning on his return to Rome at the end of his apostolic trip to Canada.

Pope Francis laid a bouquet of flowers on the altar under the ancient Marian icon Salus Populi Romani.

He prayed for a few moments to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection during his six-day “penitential pilgrimage” to the North American nation, according to the Holy See Press Office.

The pope then returned to his residence in the Vatican for a well-deserved rest.

Sadness in front of residential schools

His visit to Canada from July 24-29 highlighted the need for reconciliation and healing for Indigenous peoples, particularly following the involvement of some Catholics in the residential school system.

Pope Francis has apologized for the “evil committed by so many Christians against indigenous peoples”.

“I am here because the first step in my penitential pilgrimage among you is to ask for forgiveness again, to tell you once again that I am deeply sorry. Sorry for how unfortunately many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous peoples. I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the way in which many members of the Church and religious communities cooperated, notably through their indifference, in the projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of the time, which resulted in the residential school system.

The pope repeatedly expressed his grief and concluded his visit to Canada by expressing hope that his visit could advance the “search for truth” to help healing and reconciliation.

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