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What to know about Pope Francis’ visit to Canada

By Tom Yun

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    July 23, 2022 (CTV Network) — Pope Francis is set to embark on a visit to Canada Sunday, where he is expected to apologize for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system. This marks the first papal visit to the country in 20 years. Here’s what you need to know about the Pope’s six-day tour in Canada.

WHERE IS THE POPE GOING? Pope Francis is scheduled to land at Edmonton International Airport on July 24 and attend a welcome ceremony. The next day, he is set to meet with residential school survivors from across Canada at Maskwacis, Alta., home to the former Ermineskin Residential School. This is the only residential school visit on the Pope’s itinerary. Later that day, he will meet parishioners and Indigenous community members at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, which recently reopened after a fire in 2020. On July 26, Pope Francis will hold a mass at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium before greeting Indigenous pilgrims at the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage groups. The Pope will depart for Quebec City on July 27, where he will meet Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Citadelle of Quebec, as well as Indigenous leaders and other dignitaries. He will also hold mass at the National Shrine of Saint Anne de Beaupré the following day before meeting with a Quebec Indigenous delegation and flying to Iqaluit on July 29. At an Iqaluit primary school, the Pope will have another private meeting with Indigenous residential school survivors before attending a public community event hosted by Inuit leaders. Pope Francis is set to fly back to Rome later that evening.

WHY IS THE POPE COMING TO CANADA? Pope Francis’ visit comes after First Nations, Metis and Inuit delegations met with the pontiff in Rome back in March to discuss reconciliation with Indigenous communities in Canada. At the end of these series of meetings, the Pope read an apology in front of the delegates, asking for God’s forgiveness for the “deplorable conduct” of members of the Catholic Church. Pressure on the Pope to come to Canada and issue an apology had been mounting after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a former residential school in Kamloops B.C. last year, which was followed by similar discoveries at numerous other former residential school sites across the country. The Truth and Reconciliation commission found that an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children attended the residential school system, mostly by force, from the late 1800s to 1996. Of the 139 schools in the system, more than half had been run by the Catholic Church. The commission estimates that approximately 4,100 to 6,000 children died amid abuse and neglect while in the residential school system. The 58th call to action from the commission calls upon the Pope to issue an apology on Canadian soil for the Catholic Church’s role in the residential school system.

HOW MUCH WILL THIS VISIT COST? The federal government is spending more than $35 million for the papal visit. Indigenous Services Canada and Crown-Indigenous Relations are spending $30.5 million for community-led activities, ceremonies and to assist with travel costs for survivors Another $3 million is being spent to support Indigenous communities in the three regions that the Pope is visiting while $2 million is being spent for The Alberta government is also spending up to $20 million for the visit. Much of this money is going towards road and infrastructure improvements in Lac Ste. Anne and Maskwacis.

With files from CTV News Edmonton,‘s Michael Lee, Brooklyn Neustaeter and The Canadian Press.

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Matthew Talbot

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