By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged
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Pope Francis is traveling to Canada this weekend.
The purpose of the Catholic leader’s seven-day trip: to apologize to Indigenous peoples for abuses at church-run residential schools.
In advance of his visit, which starts Sunday, here are five key facts:
1. It’s a “one-of-a-kind” papal trip.
Christopher White, the National Catholic Reporter’s Vatican correspondent, reports:
When he touches down in Edmonton, Alberta, Francis will find a dramatically altered scene than that of past airport arrivals. Gone will be the jubilant sights and sounds of marching bands and cheering crowds.
When he arrives on the ground — almost certainly via hydraulic lift, given that his limited physical mobility has added another layer of complication to this difficult trip — the first hands he will shake will be that of Indigenous elders and survivors of residential schools. Indigenous drummers will provide background percussion and there will be no customary meetings with the head of state or speeches to civic authorities on his first day in the country.
2. Francis will find a nation where Catholicism is in decline.
Jessica Mundie, a fellow for the National Post, explains:
The role of the Catholic Church in society is not what it once was. What used to be a pillar in the social and political life of communities has now, for some, become the building they pass on the way to the grocery store. Its reputation has been tarnished by sex abuse scandals in Canada and around the world, and after last summer, when hundreds of suspected unmarked graves were discovered on the sites of past residential schools, many were reminded of the church’s role in this country’s controversial history.
Canadian Catholics are hoping that a visit from the Pope, which includes stops in Quebec City and Iqaluit, and meetings with First Nations, can begin to address past wrongs.
This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.
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