Pope Francis is slated to begin a weeklong, whirlwind visit to Canada on Sunday, where he’ll meet with Indigenous communities and formally apologize for longtime horrors in the Catholic Church-run residential school systems.
The visit — the first by a pope to Canada in two decades — will includes stops in Edmonton, Quebec City and the arctic region of Nunavut.
Francis has said the visit is a “penitential pilgrimage” to beg forgiveness on Canadian soil for the “evil” done to native peoples by Catholic missionaries. It follows his April 1 apology in the Vatican for decades of trauma Indigenous peoples suffered as a result of a church-enforced policy to eliminate their culture and assimilate them into Canadian, Christian society.
The trip won’t be easy for Francis, 85, or residential school survivors and their families. Francis cannot walk without aid thanks to a knee injury, so he will be using a wheelchair and cane to move around. Trauma experts will be deployed at all events to provide mental health assistance for school survivors.
“It is an understatement to say there are mixed emotions,” said Chief Desmond Bull of the Louis Bull Tribe told Associated Press. The chief oversees one of the First Nations that are part of the Maskwacis territory, where Francis will deliver his first apology on Monday, near the site of a former residential school.
The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the state-funded, Christian schools that operated from the 19th century to the 1970s. Some 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes, Native languages and cultures.
With Post wires.