Pope Francis is visiting Canada between July 25 and July 29, making stops in Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit to address the devastating legacy of Canada’s residential school system. On Monday, the Pope gave a formal apology for the abuses of residential schools. “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” he said.
- The Pope praised Indigenous reverence for elders during outdoor mass.
- Métis National Council statement called the papal apology a ‘step forward.’
- The Pope visited Lac Ste. Anne to take part in the community’s annual pilgrimage.
5:30 p.m. MT
Pope leads pilgrimage and blesses Lac Ste. Anne
At Lac Ste. Anne, thousands of people waited for hours in the sun for the pontiff’s arrival. As he travelled to the shore, the crowd of faithful strained to see him, with people calling out to him, “Father” And “Your Holiness.”
Sitting underneath a stark white crucifix at the shoreline, he spoke briefly in English, delivering a short prayer before being taken in his wheelchair down to the water’s edge. He sprinkled water at the shore, and then went on to the shrine, where he delivered a speech in Spanish about the meaning and traditions of the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage.
Francis performed a blessing of the lake, then sat in silence looking out at the water. He then spent several minutes sprinkling the blessed water onto people lined up at the annual pilgrimage site.
The pontiff used a traditional wooden tool with a brush on the end and dipped it into a bowl of water as he was pushed in a wheelchair.
– Carrie Tait and Canadian Press
5:05 p.m. MT
Pope Francis arrives at Lac Ste. Anne
Pope Francis has arrived at the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site, northwest of Edmonton.
Speech on violence against Indigenous women stirs audience ahead of Pope Francis
Just before Pope Francis arrived at the Lac Ste. Anne shrine in Alberta, Tara Elwood-Desjarlais gave a powerful speech on the violence that Indigenous women have suffered for decades – and are still suffering. She had the audience of several hundred riveted.
Ms. Elwood-Desjarlais, a member of Kehewin Cree Nation and a council member of the village of Alberta Beach, delivered some horrific statistics: Indigenous women represent a quarter of female suicides in Canada, but only 4 per cent of the population. Murder is the third leading cause of their deaths, and First Nations women are four-and-a-half times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women, she said.
In an interview after her talk, she said she regrets that Pope Francis did not hear her speak, and that her address wasn’t broadcast or livestreamed. “I would like him to bring the issue to the world stage,” she said. “This is an issue among Indigenous women all over the world. We’ve been going missing for hundreds of years.”
– Eric Reguly
3:30 p.m. MT
Pope Francis to join Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage
A handful of vehicles have parked on secondary roads next to Highway 16, presumably to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis’s motorcade as he travels to Lac Ste. Anne. So far, his trip to Alberta has not seen devotees gathering on highways and overpasses in hopes of seeing him. Tuesday’s highway crowds are still sparse, with only two or three vehicles in a handful of clusters. At the end of one laneway perpendicular to the highway, a small group waited in lawn chairs.
At 5 p.m. Pope Francis will join throngs of pilgrims on the shores of Lac Ste. Anne.
Originally called Wakamne, or God’s Lake, by the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation and manitou sâkahikan, or Spirit Lake, by the Cree, the lake has long been a gathering place for Indigenous peoples.
The first annual pilgrimage was organized in 1889 by Father Joseph Lestanc. Since then, the lake has become a sacred pilgrimage site. Every year around the July 26th feast of Ste. Anne, up to 40,000 pilgrims flock to the lake. Stories abound of the sick and infirm recovering after wading into the shallow waters.
This year, however, a blue-green algae bloom in the lake has prompted Alberta Health Services to advise against wading in areas where the algae is visible. It’s unclear how the advisory might affect plans for the Pope to preside over vespers, or evening prayers.
– Patrick White and Carrie Tait
2:00 p.m. MT
Timothy Schmalz sculpture to be unveiled at Lac Ste. Anne
Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz’s latest work will be unveiled Tuesday afternoon at the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage site outside Edmonton. Titled Mary, Untier of Knots, it will be a gift from Francis to the Indigenous peoples he is visiting, and serve as a symbol of his tour.
The bronze life-size sculpture began as shaped clay in Mr. Schmalz’s studio in St. Jacobs, Ont. The plan is for Francis to bless the sculpture and the lake itself, after which the artwork will find a permanent home at the Skaro Shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary, northeast of Edmonton.
The sculpture was inspired by, and is faithful to, a baroque painting of the same name by Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner. It depicts Mary standing on a crescent moon, surrounded by angels as she unties knots in a long ribbon. Mr. Schmalz has said that the Catholic residential schools can be interpreted as one of the knots.
Francis is said to adore the painting, to the point that he sent copies of the image to poor areas of Buenos Aires, where he was born.
1:30 p.m. MT
Murray Sinclair issues blistering critique of papal apology
The chief commissioner of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has issued a blistering critique of Pope Francis’s apology to Indigenous people, saying “it left a deep hole in the acknowledgement of the full role of the church in the residential school system, by placing blame on individual members of the church.”
Murray Sinclair issued a press release moments before Francis appeared in front of thousands of people at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium for an open-air mass.
In 2015, the commission called on the Pope to deliver an apology in Canada for the church’s role in the residential school system. On Monday Francis apologized for individual Catholics who participated, but not for the church as a whole. The wording jarred many Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors, who had been reiterating demands for an institutional apology.”
It was more than the work of a few bad actors – this was a concerted institutional effort to remove children from their families and cultures, all in the name of Christian supremacy,” Mr. Sinclair said. He added that he hopes the Pope will take the criticism to heart as he continues with his pilgrimage to Canada.
1:10 p.m. MT
Métis Nation President to welcome Pope Francis to Lac Ste. Anne
Métis Nation of Alberta President Audrey Poitras says she is honoured to be welcoming Pope Francis to the pilgrimage at Lac Ste. Anne later today.
The site northwest of Edmonton has long been sacred to Métis, First Nations and Catholic people.
However, Poitras says words and apologies are not enough.
She says she hopes that feeling the spirit of the Métis at the location will lead to real actions and accountability.
– The Canadian Press
11:30 a.m. MT
Communion distributed to thousands at Commonwealth Stadium
Priests, deacons and volunteers are distributing communion to tens of thousands of people at a public mass led by Pope Francis at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
People are lining up at various stations in the stadium to receive communion wafers, which are being placed into their hands.
Organizers have said they hope to complete the process in 10 to 12 minutes.
– The Canadian Press
11:15 a.m. ET
Pope praises Indigenous reverence for elders
The Globe and Mail
The mass took place on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks the feast of the grandparents of Jesus.
The Pope praised the Indigenous tradition of showing great respect for elders and learning from them, saying their memory must not be lost in modern society’s “fog of forgetfulness.”
Francis, who has often spoken about what he learned from his grandmother Rosa in Buenos Aires, used the occasion to repeat his frequent appeals to younger generations to cherish their grandparents and learn from them.
In his homily, Francis called grandparents “a precious treasure that preserves a history greater than themselves.” ”This is our history, to which we are heirs and which we are called to preserve,” he said.”
In the fog of forgetfulness that overshadows our turbulent times, it is essential to cultivate our roots, to pray for and with our forebears, to dedicate time to remember and guard their legacy. This is how a family tree grows; this is how the future is built.”
Francis’ ode to grandparents will continue later today with a prayer service at one of North America’s most popular pilgrimage sites, Lac Ste. Anne, considered to be a place of healing.
10:45 a.m. MT
Pope Francis presides over mass
Pope Francis, who has been using a wheelchair, is presiding over a large public mass in Edmonton from a specially designed chair.
– The Canadian Press
9:50 a.m. MT
Pope arrives for mass, tours Commonwealth Stadium
Stadium fills with attendees for mass
Thousands of people began filing into the stadium two or three hours before Francis was to arrive at about 10 a.m. local time.
Several people interviewed by The Globe and Mail accepted Francis’s Monday apology, and that they are at the stadium because they respect what he stands for.
“To us, Francis represents hope and change for the Catholic Church,” said Angela Jackson, 45, an artisan from Canmore, Alta. “He represents openness and acceptance of different groups of people, like LGBTQ people, who have been shunned in the past. Our faith should be about universal love and acceptance.”
Brian Lucas, 46, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of Port Alberni, B.C., agreed. He and his family drove 14 hours to see the Pope. “I have no reason to hate him or the church, though both my parents were in residential schools and they had awful problems with alcohol and gambling.”
Mr. Lucas said he accepted Francis’s apology and that it was time to move on. “I don’t want to hold onto resentment because I don’t want to pass on resentment to my children and grandchildren. I have learned that it is more important to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”
Pope blesses babies as he circles stadium
Francis blessed babies, including Gianna George, when he circled Commonwealth Stadium in the popemobile. Gianna’s parents, Gerrin and Liza, held her up and security passed the child to the pope.
He kissed her on the forehead and the crowd cheered. ”We feel so excited and thrilled. Our prayers have been answered and heard,” Ms. George said after the blessing. Gianna was born in Janurary.
The family came to Edmonton from Calgary to see the pope. Gianna’s grandparents – Annie George and George Kanjirappala – were also there for the moment.
”This is a big blessing. God just gave us a big blessing,” Gianna’s grandmother said.
– Carrie Tait
9:10 a.m. MT
Diverse crowd gathers for mass
A program is running as people find their seats, including a performance by Inuit throat singers, and a speech by Indigenous leader Phil Fontaine, former national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
It is a diverse crowd at the stadium for the papal visit, with children and seniors and people from a variety of backgrounds, including a large number of Indigenous people.
– Jana Pruden
8:05 a.m. MT
Métis National Council statement calls papal apology a ‘step forward’
The Métis National Council has just released a statement. Yesterday’s apology was “a step forward” on the pathway of truth, justice, healing and reconciliation, says President Cassidy Caron. “In committing to a serious investigation and supports for survivors, Pope Francis has begun to move the Catholic Church from offering mere words to taking real action.”
Ms. Caron says she will continue to push the church to “further reflect upon and apologize for the role of its doctrines in justifying colonizing systems such as residential schools,” and work with First Nations and Inuit leadership to “ensure that all next steps in our collective journey are survivor-driven and contribute to meaningful and lasting change.”
It’s essential, she adds, that we respect that the apology “will mean different things to different people. All of those meanings are valid and deserve our deepest love, respect and support.”
8:00 a.m. MT
People line up for Pope’s public mass
Thousands of people are streaming into Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium for the Pope’s first mass in Canada. Long lines of faithful are snaking outside the stadium, going through security checkpoints on their way inside.
The mass, with an expected crowd of 60,000 people, is the first big open-air event on the Pope’s trip and takes place on the day the Roman Catholic Church marks the feast of the grandparents of Jesus.
It wasn’t clear if Francis would actually celebrate the Mass himself or designate someone else to lead while he presides sitting from the side of the altar, as he has done in recent months because his strained knee ligaments make standing and walking difficult. Either way, Francis was nevertheless expected to deliver the homily.
Francis has long lauded the role of grandmothers in passing the faith onto younger generations, citing his own experience with his grandmother, Rosa, while growing up in Buenos Aires. For several months, Francis has delivered weekly catechism lessons on the need to treasure grandparental wisdom and not discard them as part of today’s “culture of waste.”
The Pope is scheduled to arrive just after 11:00 a.m. EST and will first tour the area in the popemobile.
– Jana Pruden and The Associated Press
3:00 a.m. MT
Second full day of the Pope’s visit to Canada
At 10:15 a.m., Pope Francis is scheduled to deliver an open-air mass to 65,000 people at Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium.
June 26 is the feast of St. Anne, grandmother of Jesus and a revered figure among Indigenous Catholics. Tickets to the mass are free, but organizers have struggled to stamp out fraudulent resellers. Overflow seating has been set aside at nearby Clarke Stadium.
In the afternoon, he’ll proceed 90 kilometres northwest to Lac Ste. Anne, a holy site that attracts as many as 40,000 pilgrims each year.
The lake is known as Wakamne, or “God’s Lake” to the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation who live nearby and Manito Sahkahiga, or “Spirit Lake” by the Cree. The name “Lac Ste Anne” was given to it by the Rev. Jean-Baptiste Thibault, the first Catholic priest to establish a mission on the site.
Last week, Alberta Health Services issued an alert for toxic blue-green algae in the lake and warned visitors against swimming or wading. It’s unclear how the advisory will affect proceedings.
– Patrick White and The Associated Press
Monday, July 25
Pope calls residential schools a ‘disastrous error’; meets with members of Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples
“I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” Pope Francis said in a formal apology for the abuses at residential schools on Monday. Thousands of survivors and their families gathered in Maskwacis for the papal visit.
In the afternoon, Pope Francis visited Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton, where he reiterated his apology made hours earlier at Maskwacis. The congregation consisted largely, although not exclusively, of Indigenous peoples. After Pope Francis spoke, children presented him with gifts, such as art from Indigenous artist Jason Carter. Elders presented him with a red, yellow, and orange star blanket.