Pope Francis Begins "penitential pilgrimage" to Canada

Pope Francis prepares to board an ITA Airlines plane for his approximately 10-hour flight from Rome to Edmonton in western Canada on July 24, 2022. Daniel Ibañez/CNA

Pope Francis set off on what he called a “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada Sunday.

During his six-day trip, the pope is expected to meet with and apologize to indigenous Canadians for abuses committed at Church-run residential schools in the 20th century. The pope’s itinerary includes stops in Edmonton, Quebec City, and Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut. He returns to Rome on Saturday, July 30.

“Dear brothers and sisters of #Canada,” the pope tweeted before his departure, “I come among you to meet the indigenous peoples. I hope, with God's grace, that my penitential pilgrimage might contribute to the journey of reconciliation already undertaken. Please accompany me with #prayer.”

The pope was in a wheelchair when he boarded the ITA Airways plane, but he walked with a cane inside the cabin, personally greeting the 80 journalists accompanying him on the trip.


The plane took off from Rome at 9:16 a.m. Rome time. After an approximately 10-hour flight, the pope was due to arrive in Edmonton in western Canada at 11:20 a.m. MT (7:20 p.m. Rome time.)

In lieu of his customary Sunday reflection before the recitation of the Angelus at the Vatican, the 85-year-old pope made brief remarks aboard the plane related to Sunday’s observance of the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

“There is no Angelus, but let’s do it here, the Angelus,” the pope said, according to an unofficial English translation.

“It’s Grandparents Day: grandparents, grandmothers, who are the ones who have passed on history, traditions, customs, and so many things,” Pope Francis said. 

He went on to urge young people to stay in contact with their grandparents, comparing this practice to a “tree that takes strength from the roots and carries it forward in flowers and fruits.”

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“And I would also like to remember, as a religious, the old men and women religious, the ‘grandparents’ of consecrated life: Please do not hide them, they are the wisdom of a religious family; and that the new men and women religious, the novices have contact with them. They will give us all the life experience that will help us so much going forward,” the pope said.

“Each of us has grandfathers and grandmothers, some are gone, some are alive; let us remember them today in a special way,” the pope concluded. “From them we have received so many things, first of all history. Thank you!”

In a tweet earlier in the day, Pope Francis called on grandparents and the elderly “to be artisans of the revolution of tenderness.”

Upon his arrival in Edmonton, Pope Francis is scheduled to receive an official welcome to Canada by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, Salma Lakhani. The pope is scheduled to begin his meetings with indigenous peoples on Monday. For more on his trip to Canada, read CNA’s explainer here.