CANADA: On Sunday, July 24, Pope Francis departed from Rome and headed for Canada to personally and formally apologise for the Catholic Church’s role in years of Indigenous abuse.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the head of the Catholic Church in Rome, will be greeted at Edmonton’s international airport.
The Pope’s plane departed Rome shortly after 9 a.m. local time.
The Pope’s Canada visit, which he has called “a penitential pilgrimage” of “healing and reconciliation”, is primarily a humanitarian move to apologise for the atrocities inflicted by the Catholic Church on the Indigenous population in Canada, which media and a reconciliation commission have called a “cultural genocide”.
The history goes that from the 1800s till the 1990s, the Canadian government forcefully sent about 150,000 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children into 139 residential schools run by the Church. The children were alienated from their families, native language and culture and forced to integrate themselves into Catholic culture. There are reports of children suffering physical, mental and sexual abuse from teachers and headmasters in these Catholic schools.
Since May 2021, over 1,300 unmarked graves have been identified at the sites of these former schools.
In the Maskwacis community, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) south of Edmonton, the Pope will address an estimated crowd of 15,000, which is expected to include former students from across the country.
While some have expressed high hopes for this endeavour, like Charlotte Roan of the Ermineskin Cree Nation, others have commented that it is perhaps too late since many of the perpetrators and victims alike have passed on.
Linda McGilvery, with the Saddle Lake Cree Nation near Saint Paul, about 200 kilometres east of Edmonton told, “Being in the residential school, I lost a lot of my culture, my ancestry. That’s many years of loss.” Linda spent nearly eight years of her childhood in these schools, from age 6 to 13.
After conducting a mass before tens of thousands of devotees in Edmonton on July 26, the Pope will head northwest to another pilgrimage site, the Lac Sainte Anne.
After visiting Quebec City from July 27-29, he will end his trip in Iqualit, a haven for the largest Inuit population in Canada. He will meet with former residential students before returning to Italy.
About 44% of the Canadian population is Catholic.
Also Read: 92 Ukrainians Detained During the Ukraine War: Russia Investigator