Pope Francis arrives in Quebec City for visit focused on reconciliation
Thousands expected at Plains of Abraham for Pope's visit, musical performances
Update: Pope says Catholic communities to promote Indigenous cultures 'in the spirit of' UNDRIP
Pope Francis has arrived in Quebec City as part of his ongoing "pilgrimage of penance" 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 the weeklong trip to Canada, before making his final stretch of the trip to Iqaluit.
The Pope landed at 2:45 p.m. at the Jean Lesage International Airport and his motorcade pulled into the Citadelle at about 4:45 p.m.
The crowd gathered at the Plains of Abraham cheered as they watched large screens that showed the pontiff step 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 Citadelle, the fortress overlooking the plains and St. Lawrence River and bordering the old city. The pontiff heard a rendition of O Canada before entering the Citadelle with Simon and Trudeau for private meetings.
He will then deliver a public address from the Citadelle which will be broadcast on large screens on the plains.
Earlier Wednesday, the crowd on the plains greeted marchers from Wendake with thunderous applause as they made their way to the stage Wednesday afternoon while the Pope was en route. Many had made a weeklong journey from Mashteuiatsh in Quebec's Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean region, taking turns marching on foot.
The community is home to the last residential school in Quebec, Pointe-Bleue, which closed in 1991. The survivors hail from the Innu, Anishinaabe, Naskapi, Wendat and Atikamekw nations.
After he addresses the crowd from the Citadelle, Pope Francis is then expected to tour by Popemobile through the plains along George VI Avenue East, before his convoy heads toward the Archdiocese of Quebec, not far from the Château Frontenac hotel.
Musical performances by First Nation, Inuit and Québécois artists began shortly before 2 p.m., and are expected to last until 7 p.m.
While the plains, home to large events such as the Festival d'été de Québec which wrapped up last week, can fit over 100,000 spectators — by 5:30 p.m. the crowd gathered for Pope Francis was just a small fraction of that.
Hundreds flock to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica ahead Papal visit
On Thursday the Pope will hold a mass at 10 a.m. at the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Basilica, about 30 kilometres northeast of Quebec City.
Hundreds of Indigenous community members and delegates visited the basilica on Tuesday morning for the Catholic feast of St. Anne. Every summer, hundreds travel 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 her third time making the pilgrimage.
"I'm hoping for everyone to just forgive each other, to forgive one another and to love one another as Jesus said," said Penashue, who came with her grandmother all the way from Sheshatshiu, N.L.
"I'm so happy that I'm here, that God gave me a chance to be here with my grandmother," she said with tears in her eyes.
"It means to me that he wants to reconcile, restore what was broken and apologize to the Indigenous people," she added.
Joe Peastitute said it was important for him to attend the mass Tuesday because he's not sure how much longer he'll be here. He's been staying in Quebec City for medical support after suffering a stroke and broken leg.
"I want to see what he will do for the people," said Peastitute, from the Kawawachikamach nation about 15 kilometres northeast of Schefferville, Que. But he said he doesn't have high hopes.
"As people we lost quite a bit," he said. "I just want to pray for my people, and the people that I lost, my parents, my grandparents, that's why I came here."
The mass on Thursday will be held in Spanish, the Pope's native language, with English and French subtitles on the outdoor screens. People can also watch the mass on the papal visit website, which will have a live translation of the event into 12 Indigenous languages.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.
Mental health counselling and crisis support is also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hope for Wellness hotline at 1-855-242-3310 or by online chat at www.hopeforwellness.ca.
with files from Sandra Hercegova and Émilie Warren