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Pope’s trip to Canada in July will not include visit to Tk’emlúps

Pope Francis will be in Quebec City, Iqaluit and Edmonton from July 24 to July 30
Pope Francis
Pope Francis.

Pope Francis will visit Canada in July, but Kamloops/Tk’emlúps is not one of the three stops on the pontiff’s schedule, despite Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir hand-delivering him an invitation to do so when in Rome a few weeks ago.

The pope will travel to Canada from July 24 to July 30 as part of a reconciliation visit for the Catholic Church’s role in running residential schools. He will make three stops on the tour: Quebec City, Iqaluit and Edmonton, the Holy See Press Office announced on Friday. The office said the program and further details of the Pope’s Apostolic Journey to Canada will be released in the coming weeks.

In a statement, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) said it was grateful the pope has accepted their invitation to Canada and noted the tour is being limited to the three cities due to the country’s vast landscape, the tour’s tight timeline and in consideration of the 85-year-old pontiff’s health.

Casimir is scheduled to hold a press conference on Friday (May 13) at 2:30 p.m. to discuss the pope’s visit to Canada.

The three cities to be visited by the pope were chosen for a number of reasons, according to Vatican News. Edmonton was selected because it is home to the second-largest number of Indigenous people living in an urban Canadian city and about 25 residential schools were located in Alberta — the most of any province in Canada. Iqaluit was chosen as it has the highest population of Inuit (3,900) of all Canadian cities and Quebec City because it is home to Ste. Anne-de-Beaupré, one of the oldest and most popular pilgrimage sites in North America.

According to the CCCB, the pope is expected to visit the site of a former residential school during his visit and a full itinerary is expected six to eight weeks before the trip.

However, given the cities selected, it doesn’t appear the pope will be visiting a site where there have been signs of unmarked graves detected.

According to an an article in the Globe and Mail, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, who will be the general co-ordinator of the trip, said the reason the pope isn’t visiting Kamloops or other locations of probable and confirmed unmarked graves is due to mobility issues. Smith said long trips by car or helicopter between locations are too difficult and that the Vatican requested hub cities be chosen, where the pope can access meaningful sites that are easily accessible in a short amount of time.

Casimir has told KTW a papal visit to Tk’emlúps would add to the significance of the pope making an apology to survivors and intergenerational survivors of residential schools. In May 2021 the Tk’emlúps band announced that a ground-penetrating survey of grounds near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School revealed signs of 200 probable graves.

Casimir was one of 32 Indigenous delegates among groups representing First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations who visited Vatican City and met the pope in late March to discuss reconciliation for residential school abuses.

During her encounter with the pope, Casimir said she invited Francis to visit Tk’emlúps during his trip to Canada and talked about the impact a meaningful apology would have, as well as how meaningful it would be to welcome him to her community.

Since that announcement, other bands in Canada have undertaken similar searches, with similar findings.

Pope Francis apologized for the Catholic church’s role in Canada’s residential school system on April 1, with some 190 Indigenous representatives, young and old, at the Vatican.

“I ask for God’s forgiveness and I want to say to you with all my heart, I am very sorry. And I join my brothers, the Canadian bishops, in asking your pardon,” Pope Francis said.