Pope Francis to visit former residential school, expected to apologize

Pope Francis is expected to speak publicly for the first time on his Canadian tour this morning at a meeting with First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in a community south of Edmonton.

The day’s festivities begin in Maskwacis, Alta. , where the Pope is to visit the former site of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School.

This is where the Pope is expected to apologize to local residential school survivors and their families for the role of the Roman Catholic Church in these institutions.

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Francis is scheduled to speak with locals and parish members at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Edmonton in the afternoon.

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Over the weekend, the pope plans to host a large outdoor mass at the city’s soccer stadium and participate in a pilgrimage to nearby Lac Ste. Ann, before traveling to Quebec City and Iqaluit.

Francis arrived on Sunday for a six-day visit aimed at reconciliation with local people.

Click to play video: 'Pope Francis visit sparks mixed emotions among residential school survivors'

2:47 p.m
Pope Francis’ visit stirred complex emotions among residential school survivors.

Pope Francis’ visit stirred complex emotions among residential school survivors.

A small crowd of dignitaries at the Edmonton airport included Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Gov. General Mary Simon and local leaders. The pope made brief private remarks with organizers saying he had reserved public remarks for today’s events.

Treaty 6 Grand Chief George Arcand Jr. said many in the local community are skeptical and hurt, but an apology could be the start of a new journey.

“Many people have always felt that forgiveness was nothing but empty words. But when the Pope announced that he would come to Alberta and speak to our people, people began to feel as if there was some sense of hope, ” They said.

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Arcand Jr. said the pardon does not erase the past but paves the way for communities to rebuild and work with the church if necessary.

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced into residential schools in Canada, where neglect and physical and sexual abuse continued. More than 60 percent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

Local leaders have said they are concerned the visit will open old wounds. Arcand Jr. called for more mental health support.

“I hope that when we apologize, we have the tools and support we need to bring people back together.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press