Memory, Healing, Reconciliation: Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to Canada

 — Sept. 9, 20229 sept. 2022

The ITA plane with Pope Francis, his entourage and accredited journalists on board took off at 9:16 a.m. on Sunday, July 24, 2022, from Fiumicino Airport, heading for Edmonton Airport, where it landed around 11:20 a.m. Thus began Pope Francis’ trip to Canada, the second largest country in the world, about 10 million square kilometers in size but inhabited by only 38 million people.

A mosaic country

Canada is a composite mosaic of peoples, religions and cultures from different origins, gravitating around two major cultural and linguistic areas linked to the history of its colonization: the Anglophone and Francophone. Already inhabited by indigenous peoples, Canada was settled by the French and English in the early 17th century. France ceded much of its territory to the United Kingdom in 1763, following its defeat in the Seven Years’ War in Europe and the Franco-Indian War in North America.

Canada was born in 1867 with the union of three colonies in British North America. The 1931 Statute of Westminster sanctioned Canada’s independence within the Commonwealth. Since 1993 a number of agreements and treaties have been signed in response to requests from Indian tribes for autonomy: First Nations (representing the predominant indigenous community of Canada, in the southern part of the nation’s territory); Métis (the mestizo descendants of the union between natives and Europeans located in the westernmost part of Canada); and Inuit (who inhabit the Arctic zone).

Read the rest of this article at La Civiltà Cattolica

A long process of truth and reconciliation

A long process of truth and reconciliation has been initiated with these tribes concerning the dramatic history of the more than 150,000 indigenous children forced to attend the indigenous residential schools, entrusted by the government, with scarce funding, to some Christian communities (Catholic,[1] Anglican and Protestant), as part of the policy of forced assimilation promoted for over a century by the Canadian State. In fact, the purpose of these institutions, according to the policies of the time, was to remove children from the cultural influence of their indigenous communities and assimilate them into Western culture. The children, often punished severely, were forbidden to speak their language of birth and to follow their religious beliefs. They lived in these schools, most often forcibly removed from their homes, suffering abuse, overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions.

In 2008, after an agreement was signed to compensate the victims, the then Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, issued a formal apology from the Canadian government and a special National Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established. In 2015, after seven years of research, the Commission released a report detailing the mistreatment and poor conditions to which these children were subjected, more than 3,000 of whom died from disease, starvation, cold and abuse, since the establishment of these schools in 1883. The report calls the residential school system a true “cultural genocide.” The matter came to the fore again in the summer of 2021, after the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the site of the Catholic residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, and later more human remains were found at other former Catholic institutions.

Subsequently, all the Churches involved have asked for forgiveness. The Catholic Church has also launched a plan of reparations, responding to the requests of the National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation. The pope’s trip to Canada is linked to these events and is intended as a “penitential pilgrimage.”[2] In fact, a specific request had called upon the pope to ask for forgiveness from the victims on Canadian soil. Before the pope’s visit, between March 28 and April 1, Canadian Catholic bishops went to Rome together with a representation of indigenous people to meet the pontiff and prepare the pastoral visit as part of a journey of healing and reconciliation.

Memory and reconciliation

Francis landed in Edmonton, the capital of the province of Alberta. Upon his arrival, he was welcomed by the Governor General, Mary Simon, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and a representative of the Indigenous Peoples. Then the pope went to a hangar at the airport and, after the performance of a traditional song of welcome in the indigenous language and greetings from some indigenous representatives, took leave of the governor general and the prime minister to transfer by car to St. Joseph’s Seminary, where he rested in anticipation of the events of the following day.

On Monday July 25, after celebrating Mass in private, the pontiff traveled  to Maskwacis (“bear hills,” in the Cree language, because the area was covered with blueberry bushes that attracted a large population of bears to the area). The site is located in central Alberta, about 70 kilometres south of the city of Edmonton. It is home to the reservations of Western Canada’s group of Indian tribes, the Four Maskwacis Nations: the Ermineskin Cree Nation, Louis Bull Tribe, Montana First Nation and Samson Cree Nation. Here the pope was welcomed at the entrance of the church dedicated to Our Lady of Seven Sorrows by the parish priest and some elders of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Then, accompanied by drumbeats, he entered the cemetery in a strictly private way and paused in silent prayer. Afterwards he went to the Bear Park Pow-Wow Grounds, where at the entrance he was welcomed by a delegation of indigenous chiefs from all over the country.

Chief Usow-Kihew (Little Child) addressed a few words to the pope, acknowledging “with deep appreciation the great personal effort he made to travel to our land.” “It was clear to all of us that he listened deeply and with great compassion to the testimonies,” he said, recalling the visit to Rome, which he had attended. “His words to us in response came clearly from the depths of his heart and were, for those who heard them, a source of deep comfort and great encouragement,” he concluded.

The words of welcome were followed by a speech by Francis, who recalled the meetings he had had in Rome with the indigenous Canadians four months earlier. At that time he had been given two pairs of moccasins as a sign of the suffering of the indigenous children, particularly those who unfortunately never returned home from residential schools. He was asked to return the moccasins when he arrived in Canada. Francis had them with him. “Those moccasins,” he said, “also speak to us of a journey: to walk together, to pray together, to work together, so that the sufferings of the past may give way to a future of justice, healing and reconciliation.” Memory is the basis for this future: indigenous people have “lived on this land for thousands of years with lifestyles that have respected the land itself, inherited from past generations and preserved for future ones.”

Francis emphasized this wise relationship with the land, referring implicitly to what he had written about the indigenous peoples in Querida Amazonia: “You have treated it as a gift of the Creator to be shared with others and to be cherished in harmony with all that exists, in profound fellowship with all living beings. In this way, you learned to foster a sense of family and community, and to build solid bonds between generations, honouring your elders and caring for your little ones.”

But memory also brings us sadly to the policies of assimilation, which included the residential school system. The pope asked forgiveness “for the ways in which, regrettably, many Christians supported the colonizing mentality of the powers that oppressed the indigenous peoples.” These words were followed by lengthy applause from the people present. The pope reiterated: “With shame and unambiguously, I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the indigenous peoples.” It was a “disastrous error, incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” It is clear that an apology “is not the end of the matter. […] That is only the first step, the starting point.”

At the end of the speech, two men, to the rhythmic beat of drums, presented the pope with a feathered headdress. Then, after singing a hymn and reciting the Our Father, the pope greeted some native elders individually, and then returned to St. Joseph’s seminary.

At 4:30 that afternoon, he headed to the church of the Sacred Heart of the First Peoples. Built in 1913, it is the national parish of the indigenous people, where the Catholic faith is expressed in the context of Indigenous culture. Fr. Susai Jesu, Oblate of Mary Immaculate, and two parishioners were there to offer words of welcome.

In his address, the pontiff defined the Church as “a house for all, open and inclusive,” “where hospitality and welcome, typical values of the indigenous culture, are essential; where everyone must feel welcome, regardless of past experiences and personal life stories.” Francis appealed for reconciliation. Indeed, the Church itself is a “living body of reconciliation,” and “the very word ‘reconciliation’ is practically synonymous with the word ‘Church’.” It “is the house where we conciliate anew, where we meet to start again and grow together,” the biblical “tent of meeting,” so well remembered symbolically by the tepee, the traditional indigenous tent.

Reconciliation is “not a kind of compromise,” and “nothing can ever take away the violation of dignity, the experience of evil, the betrayal of trust. Or take away our own shame, as believers.” But “what meaning does this have for those who bear within their hearts such painful wounds?” asked Francis, referring to the wounds suffered by indigenous peoples. The only way is “to look together to Christ, to love betrayed and crucified for our sake; to look to Jesus, crucified in the many students of the residential schools.” Reconciliation, in fact, is more a gift than the result of our own efforts.

Faced with “the lasting pain experienced in these places by so many people within ecclesial institutions, we feel nothing but anger, nothing but shame.” How could this happen? “This happened because believers became worldly, and rather than fostering reconciliation, they imposed their own cultural models. This attitude, brothers and sisters, dies hard, also from the religious standpoint. Indeed, it may seem easier to force God on people, rather than letting them draw near to God. This is contradictory and never works, because that is not how the Lord operates. He does not force us, he does not suppress or overwhelm; instead, he loves, he liberates, he leaves us free. He does not sustain with his Spirit those who dominate others, who confuse the Gospel of our reconciliation with proselytism. One cannot proclaim God in a way contrary to God himself. And yet, how many times has this happened in history! While God presents himself simply and quietly, we always have the temptation to impose him, and to impose ourselves in his name.”

After his speech, the Our Father and the blessing, the pope greeted some of the faithful and blessed the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha[3] (1656-80), who was the first native North American – from the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, New York State – to be recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church. He then returned to St. Joseph’s seminary.

Building history

On Tuesday, July 26, at 9 a.m., the pope went to Commonwealth Stadium, a complex of about 17 hectares located a few minutes outside town. It is the largest outdoor stadium in Canada. Here Francis took a tour among the faithful in the popemobile. He then celebrated Mass on the feast of Saints Joachim and Anne in English and Latin.

In his homily, he dwelt on two points. The first was that “we are children of a history to be preserved. We are not isolated individuals, islands. No one comes into this world detached from others. Our roots, the love that awaited us and welcomed us into the world, the families in which we grew up, are part of a unique history that preceded us and gave us life.” This close connection to ancestors and elders is central to the Indigenous experience.

The second point is the fact that we are also “authors of a history yet to be written.” Hence the question: “What kind of a society do we want to build? We received so much from the hands of those who preceded us. What do we, in turn, want to bequeath to those who come after us?” It is too easy to criticize: we are called to be “artisans of a new history, weavers of hope, builders of the future, peacemakers.”

At the end of the celebration the pope returned to the seminary. He left at 4 p.m., heading to Lac Ste. Anne, a wide and shallow lake, about 72 km west of Edmonton, which has been a pilgrimage destination since the end of the 19th century. Called “Lake of God” by the Nakota Sioux and “c” by the Cree people, it was named Lac Ste. Anne by Fr. Jean-Baptiste Thibault, the first priest to establish a permanent Catholic mission, in 1842, in Alberta, in this place already held sacred for generations and known to the natives as a place of healing. The first church was built in 1844. The first annual pilgrimage was organized by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in July 1889. This place was declared a National Historic Site by the Canadian government in 2004.

Here the pope participated in the pilgrimage with a liturgy of the Word. Welcomed in front of the parish church, he proceeded to the lake in his wheelchair, passing by the statue of St. Anne, accompanied by the traditional sounds of the drum. Arriving at the lake, he made the sign of the cross toward the four cardinal points, according to indigenous custom, and blessed the water of the lake. Finally, he moved to the stage, again blessing the faithful with the water from the lake. Here he gave the homily.

Francis asked us to imagine Jesus, who carried out much of his ministry on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, which was “a place teeming with diversity: fishermen and tax collectors, centurions and slaves, Pharisees and the poor, men and women from a wide variety of origins and social backgrounds, all coming together on its shores.” There Jesus preached the kingdom of God “not to a select religious congregation, but to various peoples who then, as today, flocked from different places; in a natural theatre such as this, he preached and welcomed everyone. God chose that richly diverse context to announce to the world something revolutionary.” That very lake, “a crossroads of diversity,” became the seat of an unprecedented proclamation of fraternity; of a revolution without any dead or wounded, one of love. The pope also recalled how well “authentically evangelizing missionaries have done to preserve native languages and cultures in so many parts of the world.”

The pope asked that “the wounds of the violence suffered by our indigenous brothers and sisters be brought to Jesus the Lord. In this blessed place, where harmony and peace reign, we present to you the disharmony of our experiences, the terrible effects of colonization, the indelible pain of so many families, grandparents and children.”

In particular, he recalled that in Canada, “this ‘maternal inculturation’ took place through Saint Anne, combining the beauty of indigenous traditions and faith, and fashioning them with the wisdom of a grandmother, who is a mother twice over.” This motherhood is crucial. Indeed, “part of the painful legacy we are facing stems from preventing indigenous grandmothers from passing on the faith in the context of their own language and culture.” This loss is “certainly tragic,” but indigenous peoples give “testimony of resilience and a fresh start, of pilgrimage toward healing, of a heart open to God who heals the life of communities.”

Francis then insisted with clarity and determination that “all of us, as Church, now need healing: healing from the temptation of closing in on ourselves, of defending the institution rather than seeking the truth, of preferring worldly power to serving the Gospel.”

Afterward, the pope returned to the parish church. Along the way he blessed a statue of Our Lady the Undoer of Knots. Then he returned to the seminary.

Indigenous cultures and multiculturalism

On Wednesday, July 27, after celebrating Mass in private, the pope took leave of St. Joseph’s Seminary, went to the airport and departed for Québec, where he landed around 3 p.m. He was welcomed by five local leaders.

Québec City, with a population of over 500,000, is the capital of Québec and the second most populous city in the East Canadian province, after Montreal. It is situated on the banks of the majestic St. Lawrence River. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, it is a city with a European character, French in its architecture, and among the oldest cities in North America. The Archbishop of Québec is Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, of the Pius X Secular Institute.

From the airport the pope made his way to the Citadelle de Québec, residence of the governor general. The enormous star-shaped fortress was built by Britain’s Royal Engineers between 1820 and 1850. Here the official welcoming  ceremony was held, followed by a private meeting with the governor general. Then the pope, the governor general and the prime minister repaired to the hall where the meeting with the civil authorities, the representatives of the indigenous peoples and the diplomatic corps took place.

The prime minister gave a welcome address in which he affirmed that “reconciliation is the responsibility of all of us,” and spoke of a joint commitment of Church, institutions and citizens “in the spirit of healing.” Referring to the Holy Father’s words on Canadian soil, he added: “There is no doubt that you have had an enormous impact.” The governor general then gave a speech. The indigenous people, she said, have all “come to listen to what he had to say with open hearts and minds, some willing to forgive, some willing to live with the pain, but all willing to listen,” and “all hoping to continue their journey of healing.” The goal of what Mary Simon in the Inuktitut language called mamisagniq (“a journey”) is “true reconciliation.”

Then the Holy Father took the floor. The “deplorable system” of assimilation characteristic of residential schools, he said, was “promoted by the governmental authorities of the time.” Sadly, although the Christian faith played “an essential role in shaping Canada’s highest ideals,” several local Catholic institutions were “involved in that system.” “It is tragic when some believers, as happened in that period of history, conform themselves to the conventions of the world rather than to the Gospel.” That is why Francis expressed “shame and sorrow” and, along with the country’s bishops, renewed his request for forgiveness “for the wrong done by so many Christians to the indigenous peoples.”

“The Holy See and the local Catholic communities,” Francis continued, “are concretely committed to promoting the indigenous cultures through specific and appropriate forms of spiritual accompaniment that include attention to their cultural traditions, customs, languages and educational processes, in the spirit of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Among the other themes addressed in the speech, multiculturalism, which is at the basis of the cohesion of a composite society, stands out. “Multiculturalism,” said the pope, “is a permanent challenge: it involves accepting and embracing all the different elements present, while at the same time respecting the diverse traditions and cultures, and never thinking that the process is complete.”

Finally, at about 5:15 p.m., having left the Citadelle de Québec, the pope proceeded in the popemobile – surrounded by people along the route – to the archbishop’s residence, where he was lodged.

‘Finding a way to start over’

On Thursday, July 28, at 9:20 a.m., the pope arrived at the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. The basilica, located beside the St. Lawrence River, 30 km from Quebec City, is the oldest place of pilgrimage in North America. The church welcomes nearly a million visitors each year. The first church was built in 1658 to house a miraculous statue of the saint, and then enlarged and renovated several times. Construction of the current structure was begun in the 1920s.[4] The building has five naves, in the shape of a Latin cross and in neo-Romanesque style. The pope celebrated the Mass for Reconciliation in French and Latin.

Commenting on the Gospel of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he said that “as we seek to achieve the dreams, plans, hopes and expectations deep in our hearts, we also come up against our own frailties and weaknesses; we experience setbacks and disappointments, and often we can remain imprisoned by a paralyzing sense of failure.” This is also the situation of the “pilgrim Church in Canada,” which “is making its heart resound in a laborious journey of healing and reconciliation.” In fact, “in confronting the scandal of evil and the Body of Christ wounded in the flesh of our indigenous brothers and sisters, we too have experienced deep dismay; we too feel the burden of failure.”

Francis immediately warned against the temptation to flee, “When confronted with failure in life,” he said, “nothing could be worse than fleeing in order to avoid it. It is a temptation that comes from the enemy, who threatens our spiritual journey and that of the Church, for he wants us to think that all our failures are now irreversible. He wants to paralyze us with grief and remorse, to convince us that nothing else can be done, that it is hopeless to try to find a way to start again.” On the contrary, the goal must be to “become instruments of reconciliation and peace within our societies.”

After the celebration, the pope returned to the archbishop’s residence. But, unscheduled, along the way he stopped to meet the guests of the Fraternité St Alphonse Center for reception and spirituality, which houses about 50 people, including the elderly, as well as people suffering from various addictions and AIDS patients.

In the afternoon, at 5 p.m., the pope went to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Québec. The church was built in 1647. In 1674 it assumed the title of cathedral, following the appointment of Francis de Laval – later canonized – as the first bishop of the new diocese of Quebec City. Two hundred years later, Pius IX elevated it to the status of a basilica.

Here the pope, welcomed by the cardinal-archbishop of Quebec and the president of the bishops’ conference,[5] celebrated Vespers with the bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians and pastoral workers. He gave a homily in which he dwelt on the challenge of secularization, “which has greatly affected the style of life of contemporary men and women, relegating God, as it were, to the background.” Francis specified that “when we consider the ambient culture, and its variety of languages and symbols, we must be careful not to fall prey to pessimism or resentment, passing immediately to negative judgments or a vain nostalgia.” A “negative view” must be replaced by a “discerning view.”

The negative view “is often born of a faith that feels under attack and thinks of it as a kind of ‘armor,’ defending us against the world. This view bitterly complains that ‘the world is evil; sin reigns,’ and thus risks clothing itself in a ‘crusading spirit.’ We need to be careful, because this is not Christian; it is not, in fact, the way of God, who – as the Gospel reminds us – ‘so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16). The Lord detests worldliness and has a positive view of the world. He blesses our life, speaks well of us and our situation, and makes himself incarnate in historical situations, not to condemn, but to give growth to the seed of the Kingdom in those places where darkness seems to triumph.”

As St. Paul VI wrote, “secularization is ‘the effort, in itself just and legitimate and in no way incompatible with faith or religion’ (Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 55), to discover the laws governing reality and human life implanted by the Creator.” In fact, Francis continued, “God does not want us to be slaves, but sons and daughters; he does not want to make decisions for us, or oppress us with a sacral power, exercised in a world governed by religious laws. No! He created us to be free, and he asks us to be mature and responsible persons in life and in society.” Sometimes, behind the criticism of secularization there is “on our part the nostalgia for a sacralized world, a bygone society in which the Church and her ministers had greater power and social relevance. This is a mistaken way of seeing things.”

Something else, however, is secularism, “a concept of life that totally does away with  a link with the Creator, so that God becomes ‘superfluous and an encumbrance’.” So our task is to “reflect on the changes in society that have influenced the way in which people think about and organize their lives.” In this way we will discover “that what is in crisis is not the faith, but some of the forms and ways in which we present it. Consequently, secularization represents a challenge for our pastoral imagination.” In this sense, we need “to develop a new passion for evangelization, to look for new languages and forms of expression, to change certain pastoral priorities and to focus on the essentials.” In this context  Francis proposed three challenges.

The first is to make Jesus known, returning to the first proclamation, avoiding presenting secondary aspects or replicating the pastoral forms of the past. The second is witness. The Gospel is effectively proclaimed when it is life that speaks. Within this challenge, the pope recalled that the Church in Canada “has set out on a new path, after being hurt and devastated by the evil perpetrated by some of its sons and daughters.” He referred “in particular to sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people.” He added, “thinking about the process of healing and reconciliation with our indigenous brothers and sisters, never again can the Christian community allow itself to be infected by the idea that one culture is superior to others, or that it is legitimate to employ ways of coercing others.” Francis called for a “different Church: humble, meek, merciful.” Finally, the third challenge is fraternity: the Church will be a credible witness to the Gospel if its members live communion and promote fraternal relationships. At the end of the homily, those present stood up and thanked the pope by long and warm applause.

Then the cardinal archbishop of Quebec accompanied the pope to the tomb of St. Francis de Laval, where they prayed in silence. The relics of some Canadian saints were also displayed. Finally, around 6:30 p.m., Francis returned to the Archbishop’s residence.

Meeting the Inuk face of Jesus Christ

On Friday, July 29, after celebrating Mass at the  residence, at 9 a.m. the pope met privately with a delegation of 15 of the more than 200 Jesuits present in Canada. Then, at 10:45 a.m., he received a delegation of indigenous peoples, employing words of greeting and then personally meeting the members of the delegation. The moment saw emotion and tears. Then the pope headed to Quebec airport to fly, at 12:45 p.m., to Iqaluit (“place of many fish,” in the Inuktitut language), capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, located about 300 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle. The town is home to the largest Inuit community, consisting of about 4,000 people.

Francis reached Nakasuk Elementary School, where, at 4 p.m., he met privately with some former students of the residential schools. The meeting – also very emotionally charged – extended well beyond the scheduled time.

At the end, the pope went to the square for a meeting with young people and the elderly. After the performance of some traditional dances, songs and music, Francis gave a speech, reiterating the sense of “indignation” and “shame” that have accompanied him for months because of  the “policies of cultural assimilation.” He was reminded of the testimony of an elder, who “described the beauty of the climate that reigned in indigenous families before the advent of the residential school system. He compared that season, when grandparents, parents and children were harmoniously together, to springtime, when the birds sing happily around their mothers. But suddenly,” he said, “the singing stopped: families were broken up, the little ones taken away, far from their environment; winter descended on everything.”

The pope took his cue from the qulli, “not only did the qulliq give light amid the long winter nights, it also relieved the harshness of the weather by spreading heat. In this way, it was essential for living. Even today, this lamp remains a beautiful symbol of life, of a luminous way of living that does not yield to the darkness of the night.”

Francis addressed the Inuit, especially the young, using another image familiar to them. Addressing himself ideally to one of them, he said: “Think of the arctic swallow that in Spanish we call a ‘charrán.’ It does not let headwinds  or sudden changes in temperature stop it from flying from one end of the earth to the other. At times, it chooses alternate routes, accepts detours, adapts to certain winds…, but it always has a clear goal and it always arrives at its destination.”

A third image used by Francis was that of ice hockey, the national sport. The pope referred to it, and to champions Sarah Nurse and Marie-Philip Poulin, to speak of the need for teamwork among the younger generations: “Hockey combines discipline and creativity, tactics and physical strength; but team spirit always makes the difference; it is essential for responding to the unpredictability of every game. Teamwork means believing that, in order to achieve great goals, you cannot go it alone; you have to move together, to have the patience to practice and carry out complicated plays.” The last wish was to “meet the Inuk face of Jesus Christ.”

The pope then went to the international airport of Iqaluit, where the farewell ceremony from Canada took place in the presence of the governor general. At 8.14 p.m. the plane, with the pope, his entourage and journalists on board, took off for Rome, where it landed at 8.06 a.m. on July 30.

Thus ended the 37th apostolic journey of Pope Francis, who confirmed how what he has said – since he was archbishop of Buenos Aires[6] – and says about indigenous people in various parts of the world shapes a model of Church, of evangelization, but also of society, characterized by reconciliation, multiculturalism and a radically anti-colonialist approach, and definitely marked by a positive vision of mestiza.[7]


[1]. Baptized Catholics make up 44 percent of the population. The Catholic faith spread to Canada with the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. On July 7, 1534, a French priest accompanying explorer Jacques Cartier celebrated the first Mass on the shores of the Gaspé Peninsula. Colonization began with the founding of Québec City in 1608. Many French religious congregations began  intense missionary work among the native populations. A prominent role was played by the Jesuits with their missions, which flourished in the 17th century.

[2]. Our magazine has amply outlined the reasons for this trip in the article: F. Lombardi, “Why is the Pope Going to Canada?”, in Civ. Catt. En., August 2022,

[3]. Cf. P. Molinari, “La irochese Caterina Tekakwitha”, in Civ. Catt. 2012 I 140-149.

[4]. One of the first builders of the church, suffering from severe scoliosis, was able to recover and walk without crutches at the end of the construction work. Soon the basilica became a place of pilgrimage.

[5]. The Episcopal Conference of Canada brings together the prelates of the Latin and Eastern leaders of the country’s churches. It was instituted in 1943. Its presidency alternates every two years between English-speaking and French-speaking bishops.

[6]. Cf. A. Spadaro, “The Wealth of Indigenous Peoples. The thought of Msgr. Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires”, in Oss. Rom., October 5-6, 2019.

[7]. Cf. Francis’ conversation with the Jesuits in Mozambique: A. Spadaro, “‘The Sovereignty of the People of God’. The pontiff meets the Jesuits of Mozambique and Madagascar”, in Civ. Catt. En.,

Posted: Sept. 9, 2022 • Permanent link:
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