Indigenous groups want more spots for residential school survivors during pope's visit
A group of Indigenous people in Quebec expressed disappointment and concern Friday after learning that only 400 seats will be reserved for residential school survivors at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré during Pope Francis' visit on July 28.
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) is asking the Church that reconciliation and healing for residential school survivors remain at the heart of Pope Francis' visit.
The Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Shrine website reports that organizers of the papal mass anticipate between 10,000 and 15,000 people will be able to attend with space for guests inside and outside the basilica. A broadcast of the mass will also be offered on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City.
AFNQL Regional Chief Ghislain Picard is upset with the fact that his organization has only a few days to provide 400 names, while he estimates the number of residential school survivors to be several thousand among First Nations in the province.
Picard believes that it is essential to ensure that the survivors are close to the Pope, because the event represents an essential step for them in their journey towards healing.
"This is the very purpose of the Pope's visit," he said.
He added that the Church's apology is long overdue and that it must be done in a welcoming and compassionate manner.
Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Quebec City on the afternoon of July 27. He will first meet with government officials at the Citadel of Quebec and the Plains of Abraham.
The mass at Sainte-Anne de Beaupré will take place the next day at 10 a.m.
In the afternoon, he will meet with several members of the clergy, deacons and pastoral agents at the Notre-Dame de Québec Cathedral-Basilica.
On Thursday, July 29, the Pope will have private meetings in Quebec City with members of the Society of Jesus before meeting with a delegation of Indigenous people from Eastern Canada at the Archdiocese of Quebec.
The Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador includes 43 chiefs.
-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on July 1, 2022.