Pope Francis has accepted an invitation by Canada’s bishops to visit Canada “on a pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation.”
A date for the visit has yet to be determined, said the October 27 announcement from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). A statement from the Vatican said that the Pope has expressed his “willingness” to visit Canada to aid in reconciliation efforts with Indigenous peoples.
“The Bishops of Canada have been engaged in meaningful discussions with Indigenous peoples, especially those affected by residential schools who have shared stories about the suffering and challenges that they continue to experience,” CCCB president Bishop Raymond Poisson said in a statement. “We pray that Pope Francis’ visit to Canada will be a significant milestone in the journey toward reconciliation and healing.”
First Nations, Metis and Inuit representatives are scheduled to meet with the Pope at the Vatican December 17-20 as part of the reconciliation process in a trip organized by the CCCB.
“We will invite the delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders, knowledge keepers and youth who will meet with Pope Francis to open their hearts to the Holy Father and share both their suffering as well as their hopes and desires for his eventual visit to Canada,” said Poisson.
Cardinal Thomas Collins, archbishop of Toronto, welcomed the announcement of the Pope’s acceptance of the bishops’ invitation.
“I reiterate the unequivocal apology of the Canadian bishops from earlier this year as we sorrowfully acknowledged the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples that continue to this day,” the cardinal said in a statement. “We affirm our commitment to walk with the Indigenous people on the lengthy path of healing and dialogue. I pray that the visit of the Holy Father will provide a space for that journey to continue through authentic encounters of compassion, understanding and reconciliation.”
Pope Francis will be the second pope to visit Canada. St Pope John Paul II made three trips to Canada: a 12-day cross-Canada trip in 1984; a one-day stop in 1987 when he visited Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories; and in 2002 for World Youth Day in Toronto.