Rome (AFP) – The Vatican on Thursday released an itinerary for Pope Francis’ July 24-30 visit to Canada, indicating he plans to move forward with the trip despite knee problems that forced him to cancel a six-day visit to Africa. Also planned for the next month.
Francis is scheduled to visit Canada to apologize to indigenous peoples for the abuse they suffered in Catholic-run boarding schools.
The itinerary includes several meetings with Aboriginal groups, as well as a visit to Maskwacis, home of the former Ermineskin Residential School, one of the largest residential school sites in Canada. Alberta, where Francis first landed, is home to the largest number of former boarding schools in Canada.
Francis will also hold a private meeting with school survivors in remote Equaluit, where he is scheduled to visit for a few hours on his way back to Rome on July 29.
Francis, 85, has been using a wheelchair for more than a month due to strained ligaments in his right knee that made standing and walking difficult.
Publication of the itinerary was delayed by nearly two weeks, leading to speculation that Francis may have to cancel travel to Canada as he did ahead of a planned July 2-7 pilgrimage to Africa.
Nor does the itinerary mean the trip is 100% confirmed, as there is now precedent for the Vatican to pull the plug after the flight was released.
The Vatican published the timetable for Francis’s planned trip to Congo and South Sudan on May 28. It was announced on June 10 that the Pope’s visit would have to be postponed to an unspecified later date due to doctors’ concerns that the trip might jeopardize treatment. He is subject.
The Vatican has not released any details about the type of treatment he is receiving other than knee injections. An itinerary to Canada is light for a typical papal excursion, with the bulk of it comprising only one main event each morning and one afternoon each day to allow for maximum rest time.
Francis met with Indigenous groups earlier this year and offered a historic apology for the abuses they suffered.
The Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for a papal apology to be delivered on Canadian soil. Francis said at the time of his meetings at the Vatican that he hopes to offer the apology in person this summer.
Phil Fontaine, the former national president of the Assembly of First Nations who was part of the delegation that met Francis at the Vatican, called Thursday’s update “fantastic news.”
“He made a pledge to us in the Vatican, and he is following through on that commitment,” Fontaine said.
People were worried that his health issues would lead to the cancellation of the Canadian papal tour, but he clearly sees it as important. It is a testament to his sincerity.”
Fontaine, 77, said he and his classmates were both physically and sexually abused as a boy at Fort Alexander Indian Residential School in Manitoba.
More than 150,000 indigenous children in Canada were forced to attend state-funded Christian schools from the 19th century until the 1970s in an attempt to isolate them from their homes and culture. The goal was to Christianize and integrate them into mainstream society, which previous Canadian governments considered superior.
The Canadian government has acknowledged that physical and sexual abuse is rampant in schools, and students have been beaten for speaking their native languages. Indigenous leaders say a legacy of abuse and family separation is the root cause of the epidemic rates of alcohol and drug addiction on Canadian reservations.
“We know that the Holy Father was deeply moved by his meeting with indigenous peoples in Rome earlier this year, and that he hopes to build on the important dialogue that took place,” said the Coordinator of Canada’s visit, Archbishop Richard Smith, in a statement. a permit.
The president of the Canadian Catholic Bishops Conference, Bishop Raymond Poisson, thanked the organizers and offered a prayer to the Pope.
“We pray for the health of Pope Francis and that his pastoral visit to Canada will bring reconciliation and hope to all who will accompany our pastor on this historic journey,” Poisson said in a statement.
Gillis contributed from Toronto.
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