VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis, struggling with a bad knee, is going ahead with his plan to visit Canada this summer so he can apologize in person for abuse suffered by Indigenous peoples at the hands of the Catholic church.
The Vatican on Friday announced that Francis will head to Canada on July 24, returning to Rome on July 30. While in Canada he will visit Edmonton, Quebec and Iqaluit, a small town where about half the population are Inuit.
Last month, Francis made a historic apology for abuses in Canada’s church-run residential schools. He said he wanted to go to Canada to deliver the apology personally to survivors of misguided Catholic missionary zeal.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said Francis was “accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and the Indigenous communities” in making what the Holy See termed an “apostolic journey.”
Even as the Vatican was confirming the trip, Francis was making yet another public appearance, in a Vatican auditorium, in a wheelchair. He used his speech to members of an Italian aviation agency to once again decry the war in Ukraine.
The Vatican said details of the Canada trip will be made public in the coming weeks.
With the Canada trip, Francis, 85, will be putting his stamina to test. After weeks of limping badly due to what the Vatican has said is a badly strained knee ligament, Francis began arriving at some public appearances in a wheelchair, although on Sunday he did stand at a window of the Apostolic Palace to greet the pilgrims and tourists in St. Peter’s Square.
Even before the Canadian trip, he’ll face another mobility challenge. In early July, he is scheduled to go to Congo and South Sudan, a trip he hopes will foster reconciliation.
Recently, authorities in Lebanon said a hoped-for visit to that country in June wouldn’t happen.
Catholic bishops in Canada welcomed the announcement that Francis was coming to their country.
“We are immensely grateful that the Holy Father has accepted our invitation to continue the journey of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples of this land,” said Bishop Raymond Poisson, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a statement.
Poisson added: “We pray for the health of the Holy Father as we undertaking the intensive planning for this historic visit.”
On April 1, while Indigenous representatives were visiting the Vatican for private encounters with Francis, the pontiff voiced “sorrow and shame” for the abuse and lack of respect for Indigenous identities, culture and spiritual values in the residential school system.
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