Pope Francis will travel to Canada in late July, where he is expected to meet with indigenous people who have been abused in church-run boarding schools, the Vatican said on Friday.
The 85-year-old man, who will travel to the cities of Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit, last month apologized to indigenous delegations who visited him in the Vatican over a scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church.
After the discovery of mass graves without signs, more than 4,000 children are missing.
Additional details of the July 24-30 visit will be released in the coming weeks, the Vatican said.
The Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau said on Friday that a “formal personal apology” from the head of the Roman Catholic Church to the victims and their families will be an important step “to promote significant reconciliation for our country’s indigenous peoples.”
Earlier, Francis said he wanted to visit Canada, but the trip was far from certain due to a painful knee problem that forced him to start using a wheelchair.
A visit to Lebanon, originally scheduled for June, was postponed earlier this month due to health problems.
However, on Friday, the Argentine pontiff confirmed that he would travel to South Sudan “in a few weeks” along with the highest-ranking cleric of the Church of England, Archbishop Justin Welby.
– “Healing” –
The Conference of Bishops of Canada said on Friday that choosing three communities to visit would limit travel for the elderly pope, while “allowing intimate and public meetings” with people from all regions of the country.
Edmonton is home to the second most indigenous people living in Canada’s urban centers, and about 25 boarding schools have been located in Alberta, much of any province or territory of Canada, the report said.
Quebec is home to Saint-Anne-de-Beaupre, one of the oldest and most popular places of pilgrimage in North America.
Iqaluit, on the vast island of Bafinovo, is the capital of Nunavut, home to many indigenous Inuit.
It is also an area in the Arctic region of the country where climate change – a priority for the Pope – is taking effect three times faster than the world average.
The Pope’s trip will coincide with St. Anne’s Day in Canada on July 26, dedicated to Jesus ’grandmother by mother.
Bishop Raymond Poisson said the bishops of Canada were “very grateful” that the Pope would visit to “continue the path of healing and reconciliation.”
Francis is expected to repeat his apologies to those who experienced violence at school and to the relatives of the victims.
From the late 1800s to the 1990s, some boarding schools across Canada enrolled about 150,000 children of first nations, Methodists, and Inuit as part of a state policy of forced assimilation.
They spent months or years isolated from their families, language and culture, and many were physically and sexually abused by principals and teachers.
In April, Francis revealed the “ideological colonization” of which “so many children” had fallen victim.
“Your identity and culture have been hurt, many families have been separated,” he said.
Thousands are believed to have died from disease, malnutrition or neglect. Since May 2021, more than 1,300 unmarked graves have been discovered in schools.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that the government’s failed policy was a “cultural genocide”.