Papal Visit 2022 – Pope’s journey has begun

Pope Francis kisses the hand of residential school survivor Alma Desjarlais of the Frog Lake First Nation during a welcoming ceremony at Edmonton International Airport July 24, 2022. The pope was beginning a six-day visit to Canada. (CNS photo by Vatican Media)

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – A smiling, jovial Pope Francis greeted journalists on the plane to Edmonton, but first reminded them of the penitential nature of his pilgrimage to Canada.

“As we are aware, this is a penitential trip,” the pope said in brief remarks before greeting the 76 journalists on the plane one by one.

With visits to a residential school graveyard, encounters with residential school survivors and an historic apology on the agenda, this may be the most sombre papal visit ever.

In a show of stamina, the 85-year-old Pontiff was able to walk the full distance through the narrow aisles of the Airbus A330, greeting and chatting with reporters, photographers and broadcasters, relying only on his cane. Journalists have been warned that Pope Francis would likely be in a wheelchair for the majority of his public appearances.

Pope Francis also took time to mention Grandparents Day (marked on July 24) to the press corps.

“We should get back to the grandparents, which means that young people need to be in touch with their grandparents, get back to their roots,” he said.

He spoke of his own relationship with the elders of his religious order, the Jesuits, and hoped that novices just entering religious life would similarly learn from their elders.

In addition to the 76 journalists aboard the Pope’s plane, there are 644 journalists registered with the Edmonton-based organizing committee to cover the papal visit over five days.

Pope Francis and his plane full of journalists land in Edmonton at 11:20 local time after a 10-hour and 20-minute flight. The first day’s public events are limited to greetings from a welcome party that includes Governor General Mary Simon and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Leaders of the three national Indigenous organizations which sent delegations to Rome to meet Pope Francis in the spring will also greet Pope Francis on landing — Natan Obed for the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, National Chief RoseAnne Archibald of the Assembly of First Nations and Alberta Metis Nation president Audrey Poitras filling in for Metis National Council president Cassidy Caron.

On the flight with Pope Francis are the two Canadian cardinals who work for the Pope in the curia — prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development Cardinal Michael Czerny and prefect of the Congregation for Bishops Cardinal Marc Ouellet.

Papal Visit information and updates – LINK (English) / (French)

Arrival in Edmonton July 24:

An Edmonton International Airport hangar was the venue for a simple and brief ceremony of welcome July 24 that featured a parade of brief encounters with residential school survivors, Indigenous leaders and elders, civic leaders, bishops and cardinals.

After a drum circle performance by six members of the Logan Alexis Singers who make their home on Treaty Six territory, Pope Francis began receiving a long line of more than two dozen dignataries, bringing greetings and welcoming the Pope to Canada.

But it was Indigenous people and most certainly three residential school survivors whom Pope Francis spent the most time with, holding their hands, speaking with them, and in one case kissing the hand of residential school survivor and Frog Lake First Nation elder Alma Desjarlais.

The Pope appeared to engage Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Natan Obed in an animated conversation before handing him the customary papal rosary. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Gerald Antoine leaned in to speak with and listen to Pope Francis.

When it came to politicians from Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney to Edmonton Mayor Amarjeet Sohi, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or even the Canadian bishops and cardinals, greetings were swift and cordial.

For Catholics who have longed for papal action on truth and reconciliation, there’s hope in Pope Francis’ determination to be here, despite his ailing knees and sciatica.