() — Pope Francis left Rome on Sunday for a week-long trip to Edmonton, Canada, where he will apologize for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse of indigenous Canadian children in boarding schools.
The Vatican has called the trip a “penitential pilgrimage,” and the pope will be received in Edmonton on Sunday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mary Simon, Canada’s governor general.
While in the country, he will meet with indigenous groups and address the scandal of abuse and removal of indigenous culture in the country’s residential schools.
Indigenous leaders have long called for a papal apology for the damage inflicted over decades on indigenous children. Last year, hundreds of unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of former boarding schools in British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has reported that more than 4,000 indigenous children died of neglect or abuse in residential schools, many of which were run by the Catholic Church.
In April, the pope told indigenous leaders at the Vatican that he feels “pain and shame for the role that various Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have had in all these things that hurt them, in the abuses they suffered and in the lack of respect shown for their identity, their culture and even their spiritual values”.
The pope will also travel to Quebec and Iqaluit, capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, during the trip. Two Canadian cardinals will accompany him throughout his visit, Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal Michael Czerny.
Francisco, 85, had a trip to Africa canceled earlier this month due to knee problems.
He said in an interview with Reuters that he still intends to visit Russia after the country’s invasion of Ukraine, but has drawn criticism for prioritizing that destination over visiting Ukraine and for partially blaming NATO for Russia’s invasion.
“I would like to go, it is possible that I will be able to go to Ukraine. The first thing is to go to Russia to try to help, but I would like to go to the two capitals,” Francis said.
In a June interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa, Francis said the war was “perhaps somehow provoked or not prevented.”
Pope Francis said that before Russia invaded Ukraine he met “a head of state” who “was very concerned about how NATO was moving.”
‘s Hada Messia and Radina Gigova contributed to this report.