The itinerary for next month’s papal visit has been announced by the Vatican — and it will begin in Western Canada.
Pope Francis will be in Alberta on July 24 to July 26, Quebec on July 27 to July 28, and Iqaluit on July 29.
The theme of the weeklong visit is "walking together." It will include a combination of public and private events, with an emphasis on Indigenous participation.
The 85-year-old pontiff will start his visit in Edmonton with a brief airport ceremony on July 24.
He will visit the site of the former Ermineskin Residential School in Maskwacis, Alta., and meet with members of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities on July 25.
That afternoon, Pope Francis will visit Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, a National Indigenous Roman Catholic church in downtown Edmonton, where he will give an address.
The Pope will celebrate an open-air mass at the 65,000-seat Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on the morning of July 26 — the feast day of St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus. The event will incorporate Indigenous traditions.
That evening, the Pope will visit Lac Ste. Anne, 95 km northwest of Edmonton. It is the site of an annual pilgrimage that welcomes tens of thousands of Indigenous participants from across Canada and the U.S. He will give a homily there.
Pope Francis will meet the governor general, prime minister and Indigenous people in a series of meetings in Quebec City on July 27.
The Pope will visit Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, northeast of Quebec City, on July 28, where he will celebrate mass at one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites in North America. Later that day, he will participate in vespers with bishops, priests, seminarians and other church officials at the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
Pope Francis will meet with a delegation of Indigenous people from Quebec on the morning of July 29 before departing for Iqaluit. There, he will meet with residential school survivors, young people and elders before leaving for Rome.
"This announcement is a confirmation that the Holy Father is coming to Canada," Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, who is the general co-ordinator of the papal visit, said.
"It’s deeper than that, though. It shows the depth of the pope’s determination to come here to meet Indigenous people. It is clearly a priority for him."
The visit will not only be beneficial for Roman Catholics, Smith said, "but for the whole country. It can help us all as we work towards reconciliation. If we get this question right, it can have repercussions (that show) all Canadians that reconciliation is possible."
Smith said the Pope’s health is a concern, so his appearances will be limited to about an hour, with plenty of time for rest, he said.
"We want to make sure he isn’t over-taxed on this trip," he said.
More information about the visit can be found at www.papalvisit.ca.
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.