> Pope Francis travels to Maskwacis to visit former residential school

Pope Francis travels to Maskwacis to visit former residential school

Pope Francis says he is in Canada to express his sorrow and ask for forgiveness for residential schools

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MASKWACIS — Pope Francis says he is sorry for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in cultural destruction and forced assimilation of Indigenous people, which culminated in residential schools.

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Francis apologized Monday in front of residential school survivors and elders in Maskwacis, Alta., south of Edmonton after visiting the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School.

He received applause from many in the crowd of thousands.

“I am sorry. I ask forgiveness, in particular, for the ways in which many members of the church and of religious communities co-operated, not least through their indifference, in projects of cultural destruction and forced assimilation promoted by the governments of that time, which culminated in the system of residential schools,” Francis said through a translator.

Francis spoke in Spanish, his first language, and it was translated into English by a priest. Translations were also available in several Indigenous languages.

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“I am deeply sorry” Pope Francis told the crowd. “Sorry for the ways in which regrettably many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the Indigenous peoples — I am sorry.

“In the face of this deplorable evil, the Church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children. I, myself, wish to reaffirm this with shame and unambiguously, I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples.”

The Pope said he feels sorrow, indignation and shame. He said begging forgiveness is the first step and there must be a serious investigation into what took place.

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Francis also called the overall effects of the policies linked to residential schools “catastrophic.”

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend residential schools in Canada, where neglect and physical and sexual abuse were rampant.

More than 60 per cent of the schools were run by the Catholic Church.

— The Canadian Press


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2:45 p.m.

Watch: Treaty Six Chiefs and Survivors media availability

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12:30 p.m.

Alberta Métis ‘appreciate’ Pope’s apology, call on feds to release residential school records

By Craig Gilbert

Pope Francis greets Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta as he begins his papal visit in Canada after landing at Edmonton International Airport, on Sunday, July 24, 2022. A brief welcome ceremony greeted the head of the Catholic Church before he headed into Edmonton accompanied by his papal seguito (entourage). Photo by Ian Kucerak
Pope Francis greets Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta as he begins his papal visit in Canada after landing at Edmonton International Airport, on Sunday, July 24, 2022. A brief welcome ceremony greeted the head of the Catholic Church before he headed into Edmonton accompanied by his papal seguito (entourage). Photo by Ian Kucerak Photo by Ian Kucerak /Postmedia

Audrey Poitras, President of the Métis Nation of Alberta, said Monday she appreciates the apology Pope Francis issued for the Catholic Church’s role in the “horrors of the residential and day school program.”

But in a statement issued Monday afternoon, she said, as the Pope did, that an apology is only a beginning.

Poitras called on the federal government and the Church to release records from the schools and “to hold to account all those who committed these atrocities against our children and our communities.

“Five generations of Indigenous children in Canada were forcibly removed from their homes. That level of trauma, unimaginable to many others, will take generations to heal. This can only happen if the Church and the Government of Canada commit to providing resources for mental health, education, nutrition and more.”

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Poitras also called on the federal government to stop “court battles” with residential school survivors, ensure clean drinking water is widely available and to “embrace a nation-to-nation relationship with all Indigenous peoples and their duly elected representatives.”


12:15 p.m.

Pope invites Chief of Alberta First Nation stripped of band status to Sacred Heart visit

By Craig Gilbert

The under construction Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, in Edmonton Monday July 18, 2022. The church was heavily damaged in an Aug. 30, 2020 fire, and is being restored ahead of a visit by Pope Francis.
The under construction Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, in Edmonton Monday July 18, 2022. The church was heavily damaged in an Aug. 30, 2020 fire, and is being restored ahead of a visit by Pope Francis. Photo by David Bloom /Postmedia

The chief of Papaschase First Nation says he’s looking forward to greeting Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton Monday afternoon.

The community lost its official status when its leadership signed an adhesion to Treaty 6 in 1877, according to Chief Calvin Bruneau, whose grandmother was abused at a residential school.

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“Reconciliation is not a grand act, declaration, or gesture; it’s a journey. Every step forward matters” Bruneau said in a news release. “As Chief of a Nation whose ancestors and descendants have been scarred beyond what words can describe by colonial injustices and the horrors of residential schools, I am hopeful that the Pope’s visit will include a meaningful apology, a genuine effort to hear and understand our pain and aspirations, and commitments to concrete, corrective action. In doing so, there is opportunity for another important step on our path towards justice and healing.”

Bruneau said the invitation to Sacred Heart signifies “an important recognition by the Catholic Church and Pope Francis” as Papaschase continues to work to regain its status and Aboriginal and Treaty rights.

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Chief Bruneau will be joined at the event by Fernie Marty, a descendant and Elder of Papaschase First Nation, elder for Sacred Heart Church, and survivor of the Beaver Crossing day school.

‘It should have happened 40 years ago’

Chief Calvin Bruneau taken on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 in Edmonton.
Chief Calvin Bruneau taken on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021 in Edmonton. Photo by Greg Southam /Greg Southam

Speaking to Postmedia following the Pope’s address, Chief Bruneau said he had mixed feelings about it.

“On one hand is good to apologize, but they left out specific details in there that people wanted to hear,” said Bruneau, noting there was no specific mention of genocide, nor the Doctrine of Discovery – a legal framework that empowered European Christian colonization, something many have called on the Pope to renounce.

“It should have happened 40 years ago,” said Bruneau of the apology. “Having it done now is good, but it’s just long overdue, and there’s lots of people, and elders, who have passed on, that were waiting for this day but they never got the chance to hear this apology.”

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Chief Bruneau said it’s important Indigenous leaders continue to press the Vatican, and the Pope, to renounce the Doctrine that allowed for assimilation and abuse.

“As long as the Pope continues to look at reconciliation with Indigenous people, especially here in Edmonton, he’s welcome into Treaty Six territory and Papaschase territory.”

Bruneau is scheduled to greet Pope Francis at Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton Monday afternoon.


11:40 a.m.

Premier Jason Kenney comments on Pope apology

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney issued a statement Monday in response to Pope Francis’ apology for the Catholic church’s role in the residential school system.

“This historic apology by Pope Francis today at Maskwacis builds upon decades of truth and reconciliation efforts,” Kenney said. “It represents a truly historic moment in confronting the dark history of residential schools and Alberta is honoured to have it take place here.

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“Albertans are committed to partnership with Indigenous Peoples for the flourishing of their communities. The presence of Pope Francis in our province invites us to renew that commitment in light of his encouragement to heal the wounds of the past.”


Sunday

Crowd gathers along Ellerslie Road to greet Pope Francis

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A crowd of well-wishers gathers along Ellerslie Road over Gateway Boulevard to watch Pope Francis as his motorcade arrives in Edmonton on Sunday, July 24, 2022. A crowd of well-wishers gathered along Ellerslie Road over Gateway Boulevard to watch Pope Francis as his motorcade arrived in Edmonton on Sunday.

“It’s, like, once-in-a-lifetime to meet the Pope,” said Caroline Puyat, a Catholic, who was one of about 40 people gathered along the overpass. “It’s really important that he’s coming over here for healing and reconciliation and hope.”

“He’s one of the most famous people in the world so why wouldn’t you come out and have a look and see what it’s all about,” said Brian Rothwell, who said he’s not a Catholic himself but that the Pope’s trip is an important one.

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“I think that it’s needed,” said Rothwell. “I think coming from a top level like that means a lot to the Indigenous people, really.”

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Kenney welcomes Pope in message

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The Alberta government issued a statement welcoming Pope Francis to the province timed to coincide with the scheduled landing of the pontiff’s flight at Edmonton International Airport, about 11:20 a.m. Sunday.

“It is a great honour to welcome His Holiness Pope Francis to Alberta on his pilgrimage of prayer, penitence, healing and reconciliation,” Premier Jason Kenney said in the release. “While his presence among us is of historic significance to Alberta Catholics, the papal visit is a blessing for all Albertans, beginning with Indigenous Peoples.

“Edmonton, our capital, is proud to host a third papal visit and the first visit of Pope Francis to Canada.”

Kenney said Pope John Paul II’s visit to Fort Simpson, in the southwest of the Northwest Territories, in 1987 could be viewed as an “initial step toward reconciliation before we even knew the full need for it.

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“The painful legacy of residential schools, which is the focus of this papal visit to Alberta, requires both expressions of remorse and concrete actions,” Kenney continued. “The visit of Pope Francis is both, and the Province of Alberta is proud to host it.

“May it be an occasion of both truth and reconciliation, to which the government and people of Alberta are committed.”


11 a.m.

Pope Francis arrives at EIA

By The Canadian Press

EDMONTON — Pope Francis has arrived in Edmonton to start his six-day visit in Canada.

The tour is aimed at reconciliation with Indigenous people for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in residential schools.

The Pope has said he hopes the “penitential” trip will contribute to reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

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The 85-year-old, who is to use a wheelchair throughout the tour, is also scheduled to travel to Quebec City and Iqaluit.

Francis is to be greeted at the Edmonton airport by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, as well as other church, Indigenous and political dignitaries.

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Below is a rundown of the Pope’s itinerary while in Alberta

Monday — July 25

In the morning, the Pope will travel south to Maskwacis, arriving at 9:45 a.m., where he’ll visit the former Ermineskin Residential School. He’s scheduled to spend about two hours in the community before travelling back to Edmonton.

There will again be rolling closures of parts of the QEII as well as on Highway 2A and along Highway 611 throughout the day.

At 4:45 p.m., Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive at the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Downtown Edmonton for an hour-long visit. Various nearby roads will be closed off.

Tuesday — July 26

Doors at Commonwealth Stadium will open at 7:30 a.m. ahead of the Pope’s 9:30 a.m. open-air mass. Organizers say attendees must be in their seats no later than 8:15 a.m. when the program begins.

That afternoon, the Pope will travel to Lac Ste. Anne, arriving at the pilgrimage site just before 5 p.m. He is scheduled to remain there for about an hour before returning to Edmonton.

Highways 16 and 633 are among those affected by rolling closures throughout the afternoon.

Wednesday — July 27

Pope Francis will make an early-morning trip to the airport ahead of a scheduled 9 a.m. departure.

Once again, parts of the QEII will be restricted as the motorcade travels to the airport.

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