National Newswatch

OTTAWA — Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller said Wednesday Pope Francis’s upcoming trip to Canada remains unchanged at the moment, but the pontiff’s health is an “extreme concern.”

Miller’s comments come after the Vatican announced last week the 85-year-old Pope would reschedule an upcoming trip to Africa to avoid interrupting therapy he is undergoing for his knee. 

His trip to the Congo had been scheduled to take place from July 2 to July 7, just weeks before he is set to travel to Canada to deliver a long-awaited apology to Indigenous people for the Catholic Church’s role in running residential schools. 

“We’re all systems go in Canada in terms of hosting, effectively, what is a head of state,” Miller said before entering a meeting of the Liberal caucus.

“But obviously his precarious health is of extreme concern.”

An estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend these church-run, government-funded institutions, where physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect, were rampant.

The final report released in December 2015 from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which collected testimony from thousands of survivors, called for a papal apology to take place on Canadian soil for the role played by the Catholic Church and its clergy for running these schools. 

That request went unheard for years until earlier in the year when Pope Francis apologized to First Nations, Inuit and Métis delegates who travelled to the Vatican to speak to him about the matter.  

Survivors still hope to see him deliver an apology in Canada. 

Miller said Wednesday that as far as he’s aware, Pope Francis’s upcoming trip to Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit remains on track. 

“There’s no change. Obviously his state of health would perhaps require some accommodation,” the minister said, adding those details will be sorted out with the parties involved. 

A spokesman for the papal visit said last week that the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is in regular touch with the Vatican about the pontiff’s upcoming travel. 

Neil MacCarthy has said care has been taken to ensure Pope Francis, who has recently been photographed using a wheelchair, can rest in between events. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2022.

Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press


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