Tens of thousands of people are expected to fill Edmonton’s football stadium today to take part in a public mass with Pope Francis.
The pontiff is set to address Indigenous groups, residential and day school survivors, elders, knowledge keepers and Catholics during the roughly hour-long mass at Commonwealth Stadium.
Organizers say the event is taking place on the feast day of St. Anne who was the grandmother of Jesus and is a day of particular reverence for Indigenous Catholics.
Later in the day the pontiff is expected to travel to Lac Ste. Anne, northwest of Edmonton, to take part in the community’s annual pilgrimage, which regularly welcomes tens of thousands of Indigenous participants.
The Pope’s second full day of events comes a day after he apologized to residential school survivors and their families for the role the Roman Catholic Church played in the cultural destruction and forced assimilation of Indigenous Peoples.
During an event in the community of Maskwacis, south of Edmonton, Francis begged forgiveness for the evil acts committed by members of the Catholic Church.
“In the face of this deplorable evil, the church kneels before God and implores his forgiveness for the sins of her children … I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous Peoples,” Francis said Monday through an interpreter at the community’s powwow grounds.
For survivor Evelyn Korkmaz, the apology left her wanting more.
She said the Vatican needs to hand over the documents it has related to the identities of students who went to the institutions.
“It would give their families (and) loves ones closure. Everybody needs closure in order to heal and move on,” she said.
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Chief Tony Alexis said the apology opened wounds that can’t just be left open.
“You can’t just say I’m sorry and walk away. There has to be effort. There has to be work, and more meaningful action behind it.”
The pontiff said begging forgiveness is the first step and there must be a serious investigation into what took place. He also called the overall effects of the policies linked to residential schools “catastrophic.”
Later in the week Francis is set to travel to Quebec City for meetings with Indigenous Peoples and to host another mass, and will also travel to Iqaluit.
The Indian Residential Schools Resolution Health Support Program has a hotline to help residential school survivors and their relatives suffering trauma invoked by the recall of past abuse. The number is 1-866-925-4419.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 26, 2022.