Pope Francis Gifts His "dearest friend", St. Joseph, to Canada

Stained glass window depicting St. Joseph. Shutterstock

As Pope Francis concludes his visit to Canada, he is leaving behind his “dearest friend”: St. Joseph.

Before traveling to Iqaluit on Friday, the 85-year-old pontiff gifted a statue of St. Joseph and the Child Jesus to the archbishop’s residence in Québec City, according to the Holy See Press Office. He presented an identical statue of Jesus’ foster father to St. Joseph Seminary, which hosted him at the start of his trip in Edmonton, Alberta.

“I am leaving you my dearest friend,” he told the institute, Vatican News shared.

Pope Francis embarked on what he called a “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada on July 24. During his time there, he has asked forgiveness for the Catholic Church’s role in running many of the country’s government-sponsored residential schools for indigenous children. These schools, in place until the late 1990s, worked to stamp out aspects of native culture, language, and religious practice. Former students have described mistreatment and abuse.


While much of the trip has centered around St. Anne, who is revered by many indigenous Canadians, the pope is also recognizing St. Anne’s son-in-law, St. Joseph.

The wooden-looking statue, while modern, includes traditional features dating back to the 19th century, the Holy See Press Office said. At the same time, it respects the saint’s depiction as Jesus' “silent guardian.”

St. Joseph embraces the Christ Child with his left arm. With his right hand, he holds the staff that, according to tradition, miraculously bloomed with lilies when the Jerusalem Temple priests were choosing a husband for Mary.

The saint bows his head slightly, as with humility, to symbolize his respect for the child he is carrying.

Pope Francis has a deep devotion to the saint, the press office emphasized. When he first became pope, he celebrated his inauguration on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, whom he held up as his role model and as a protector. 

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As pope, he has regularly recognized St. Joseph, from declaring 2021 the Year of St. Joseph to preaching about him during general audiences in apostolic letters.

He even has his own special statue of St. Joseph that depicts the saint sleeping on his side.

“I like St. Joseph very much. He’s a strong man of silence. On my desk, I have an image of St. Joseph sleeping. Even when he is asleep, he looks after the Church. Yes! We know that he can do that,” Pope Francis said in 2015 while speaking in the Philippines. “So when I have a problem, a difficulty, I write a little note, and I put it underneath St. Joseph so that he can dream about it! In other words, I tell him: Pray for this problem!”

Katie Yoder is a correspondent in CNA's Washington, D.C. bureau. She covers pro-life issues, the U.S. Catholic bishops, public policy, and Congress. She previously worked for, National Review, and the Media Research Center.