The Vatican has released the itinerary for Pope Francis’ visit to Canada next month, signalling he intends to go ahead with the trip despite knee problems that forced him to cancel a visit to Africa.
Francis is due to visit Canada to apologise to indigenous peoples for abuses at Catholic-run residential schools.
The itinerary includes several encounters with indigenous groups, as well as a visit to Maskwacis, home to the former Ermineskin Residential School.
Alberta, where Francis lands first, is home to the largest number of former residential schools in Canada.
Francis will also have a private meeting with survivors of the schools in remote Iqualuit, where he is due to visit for a few hours on his way back to Rome on July 29.
Francis, 85, has been using a wheelchair for over a month because of strained ligaments in his right knee that have made standing and walking difficult.
The publication of the itinerary was delayed for nearly two weeks, leading to speculation Francis might be forced to cancel traveling to Canada as he did his before a planned July 2-7 pilgrimage to Africa.
The itinerary does not mean the trip is 100% confirmed since there is now precedent for the Vatican pulling the plug after one was released.
The Vatican published the itinerary for Francis’ planned trip to DR Congo and South Sudan on May 28. It announced on June 10 that the pope’s visit would have to be rescheduled for an undetermined later date because of doctors’ concerns the trip might jeopardise the therapy he is undergoing.
Francis met indigenous groups earlier this year and offered an apology for the abuses they endured.
“We know that the Holy Father was deeply moved by his encounter with Indigenous Peoples in Rome earlier this year, and that he hopes to build on the important dialogue that took place,” the coordinator of the Canada visit, Archbishop Richard Smith, said.
“We pray this pilgrimage will serve as another meaningful step in the long journey of healing, reconciliation and hope.”