By Jacob Cardina
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Earlier this month, the Holy See Press Office _ the official news outlet for the activities of the Vatican, announced that Pope Francis will be visiting with Indigenous Nations in Canada from July 24 to 30, 2022.
During the trip, Francis is expected to meet with multiple Indigenous Nations across the country due to his commitment to reconciliation.
The visit will be the fourth papal journey to Canada and the first since Saint John Paul II’s visit in 2002.
The popular belief is that the pope will reiterate his initial apology _ made on April 1st, 2022 in Rome, Italy, in which he essentially apologized for the actions of individual members, as opposed to the institution itself apologizing.
“We fully expect that the Pope will reiterate the apology he did give in Rome,” said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, a general co-ordinator of the trip.
The “Holy Father” will be visiting the cities of Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit. Specific locations and visitations are expected to be made available as the trip draws nearer, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has said.
The decision to visit Edmonton is due to the size of the city’s Indigenous population; it is the second-largest in Canada. There were also about 25 residential schools that operated in Alberta, making it home to the most residential schools in any province or territory.
Furthermore, Francis will only be visiting these three cities during the trip due to issues with his mobility, said Smith.
“When he comes to a country, he can’t get around by helicopter, he can’t be in a car any more than an hour, he can’t be in a different place every night,” he said. “The Vatican chose these three sites for those various reasons, seeing how we could have a meaningful impact within a very limited scope. But that places on all of us a responsibility to make sure those venues, once chosen, still are going to have a national impact.”
Governor General Mary Simon however, does not believe the visit will culminate in any concrete action, such as: issues of compensation, unclassified documents, or extradition and criminal charges for main abusers.
Simon, the first Indigenous Governor General in Canada’s entire history, told The Current in an interview, “I suspect that it’s going to be similar to what he said at the Vatican, but people are expecting more, that he will include the Church as an institution.”
“I don’t know if that will happen or not ? I’m just talking about some of the expectations that I’ve heard from some of the Indigenous leaders.”
While she believes that institutional apologies are important for the healing process, Simon says, “But it can’t just be words, it has to be followed with action.”
Meanwhile many Indigenous Nations have been accepting of the visit, with statements coming from Grand Chief George Arcand Jr., the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and the Metis National Council’s Cassidy Caron.
“We hope that the Vatican will work closely with us in the spirit of reconciliation to ensure that there is adequate resourcing for any and all survivors who wish to attend,” Caron said in a statement.
Jacob Cardinal is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the ALBERTA NATIVE NEWS . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI government funding.