UPDATE: 11:50 a.m. (MT):
Following his speech, Pope Francis accepts an Indigenous headdress from Chief Wilton Littlechild, a former Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner, which he temporarily wears in front of the crowd.
Traditional Indigenous singer Gerry Saddleback sings an emotional national anthem in Cree.
Pope Francis accepted a headdress, wearing it for a moment. Indigenous singer performed emotional national anthem in Indigenous language. pic.twitter.com/jSyzTAAnS7— Ponoka News (@PonokaNews) July 25, 2022
Pope Francis to residential school survivors gathered at Maskwa Park in Maskwqcis, Alta.: "I'm sorry. I ask forgiveness" for evils committed against Indigenous Peoples. #PapalVisit— Ponoka News (@PonokaNews) July 25, 2022
UPDATE: 11 a.m. (MT):
Following a welcome of a grand entry by chiefs representing Louis Bull Tribe, Samson Cree Nation, Montana First Nation and Ermineskin First Nation, Pope Francis speaks to those in attendance.
Francis, speaking in spanish, tells the crowd: “I am sorry,” and asks for forgiveness for the “cultural destruction and forced assimilation” at residential schools.
“I am deeply sorry,” he told the crowd. “Sorry for the ways many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed Indigenous peoples. I am sorry. I ask forgiveness.”
He also says he will be returning moccasins he received when the delegation of Indigenous survivors and Elders visited the Vatican in April.
Pope Francis says he will return moccasins he received when delegation went to the Vatican in April. "Moccasins speak of a path to follow" so suffering of past can lead to future of justice and reconciliation. #PapalVisit— Ponoka News (@PonokaNews) July 25, 2022
ORIGINAL STORY 9 a.m. (MT):
Pope Francis has arrived in Maskwacis in Alberta in what he has described as a “penitential pilgrimage” in the wake of a reckoning of the abuse faced by Indigenous children at Catholic-run residential schools in the country.
This marks his first visit to Canada, and is part of a six-day itinerary stretching from Edmonton to Quebec City to Iqaluit.
Thousands of survivors and their families have gathered for the day-long event, as well as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Governor General Mary Simon and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
Pope Francis landed in Alberta mid-morning Sunday (July 24). On Monday morning, he travelled south of Edmonton to Ermineskin Cree Nation Cemetery, as well as the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School.
He is expected to speak at about 10:30 a.m. MST.
Through the day, he will be meeting with survivors in Maskwacis, formerly called Hobbema, at Muskwa Park. An estimated 6,000 people, including Elders and Knowledge Keepers, will be in attendance.
Organizers have said there is a possibility he will make a “Giro” through the crowd, which is when he tours among the people through the park. For this event, the Popemobile is a 2015 Jeep Wrangler and is always driven by a member of the Vatican security team.
Pope’s visit follows calls to deliver apology on Canadian soil
The Canadian government has admitted that physical and sexual abuse were rampant in the government-funded Christian schools that operated from the 19th century to the 1970s. Some 150,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend in an effort to isolate them from the influence of their homes, Native languages and cultures and assimilate them into Canada’s Christian society.
Catholic religious orders operated 66 of Canada’s 139 residential schools, where thousands of children died from disease, fire and other causes.
Symbolic teepees have been set up at the former Ermineskin residential school site in Maskwacis for the papal visit. Pope to arrive in 15 mins. pic.twitter.com/anAj3k5O6d— Ponoka News (@PonokaNews) July 25, 2022
Francis’ trip follows meetings he held in the spring at the Vatican with delegations from the First Nations, Metis and Inuit. Those meetings culminated with a historic April 1 apology for the “deplorable” abuses committed by some Catholic missionaries in residential schools.
He will not be visiting Kamloops, B.C., where Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation surveyed the gounds at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and uncovered what is believed to the remains of 215 children. This discovery triggered a number of other site searches across the country.
More to come