Pope Francis arrives in Quebec for a visit focused on reconciliation

Pope Francis arrived in Quebec City as part of his ongoing “Penitential Pilgrimage” to advance reconciliation and healing between the Roman Catholic Church and residential school survivors in Canada.

He will be in the Quebec City area until Friday as part of a week-long trip to Canada, before making his final leg of the trip to Iqaluit.

The Pope landed at 2:45 p.m. at Jean Lesage International Airport and his motorcade entered the Citadel around 4:45 p.m.

The crowd gathered on the Plains of Abraham cheered as they watched large screens showing the pontiff stepping out of the front passenger seat of a white Fiat.

The pope was greeted by Governor General Mary Simon and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Citadel, the fortress overlooking the plains and the St. Lawrence River and bordering the old city. The pontiff heard an interpretation of O Canada before entering the Citadel with Simon and Trudeau for private meetings.

He will then deliver a public address from the Citadel which will be broadcast on large screens in the plain.

Earlier Wednesday, the Plains crowd greeted the Wendake marchers with thunderous applause as they made their way to the stage on Wednesday afternoon as the Pope was on his way. Many had made a week-long trip from Mashteuiatsh in the Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region of Quebec, taking turns walking.

The community is home to the last boarding school in Quebec, Pointe-Bleue, which closed in 1991. The survivors are from the Innu, Anishinaabe, Naskapi, Wendat and Atikamekw nations.

After addressing the crowd from the Citadel, Pope Francis is then expected to travel the plains along Avenue George VI East in a popemobile, before his convoy heads for the Archdiocese of Quebec, not far from the city. Hotel Chateau Frontenac.

Musical performances by First Nations, Inuit and Quebec artists began shortly before 2 p.m. and are expected to last until 7 p.m.

Hundreds of people flock to the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica ahead of the papal visit

On Thursday, the pope will hold a mass at 10 a.m. at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica, about 30 kilometers northeast of Quebec.

Hundreds of members of the indigenous community and delegates visited the basilica on Tuesday morning for the Catholic feast of Saint Anne. Every summer, hundreds go to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré for the pilgrimage, even busier this year with the upcoming mass.

Florence Penashue was at the basilica alongside her 94-year-old grandmother, Mary Odele Penashue, and says this is the third time she has made the pilgrimage.

Florence Penashue’s 94-year-old grandmother, Mary Odele Penashue, has made the annual summer pilgrimage on several occasions. (Sandra Hercegova/CBC)

“I hope everyone forgives and forgives and loves each other like Jesus said,” said Penashue, who came with her grandmother from Sheshatshiu, Newfoundland.

“I’m so happy to be here, that God gave me the chance to be here with my grandmother,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“It means to me that he wants to reconcile, to restore what has been broken and to apologize to the indigenous people,” she added.

Joe Peastitute said it was important for him to attend Mass on Tuesday as he does not know how long he will be here. He remained in Quebec for medical support after suffering a stroke and a broken leg.

A man sits in a wheelchair with a cast on his left foot.
Joe Peastitute is ready to hear what Pope has to say, but said he doesn’t have high hopes. (Sandra Hercegova/CBC)

“I want to see what he will do for people,” said Peastitute, of the Kawawachikamach Nation about 15 kilometers northeast of Schefferville, Que. But he said he didn’t have high hopes.

“As people we have lost a lot,” he said. “I just want to pray for my people, and the people I lost, my parents, my grandparents, that’s why I came here.”

Thursday’s Mass will be held in Spanish, the Pope’s native language, with English and French subtitles on the outside screens. People can also watch the Mass on the Papal Visitation website, which will offer live translation of the event in 12 indigenous languages.

Support is available to anyone affected by their residential school experience or recent reports.

A National Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line has been established to provide support to former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis hotline: 1-866-925-4419.

Mental health counseling and crisis support is also available 24/7 through the Hope for Wellness Helpline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.

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