Visit of the pope: “we must not make it a missed appointment”

Survivors of residential schools will be entitled to 70% of the available seats during the Pope’s visit to the Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré basilica on July 28.

• Read also: See the preparations for the arrival of Pope Francis in Quebec

The disappointment was felt on Friday among the survivors of residential schools who will not be able to be in the basilica during the ceremony. The pope is supposed to present the apologies of the Church there.

Even though the majority of available seats have been reserved for Indigenous communities, i.e. 70% of indoor seats and 70% of outdoor seats, the Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador (AFNQL) fears that the ceremony will be “a rendezvous -missing”.

“We only have a few days to provide 400 names. How can we make this choice when we estimate the number of survivors of residential schools at a few thousand among the First Nations?” lamented Ghislain Picard.

Ghislain Picard - Chief AFNQL

Photo Agence QMI, Mario Beauregard

Ghislain Picard – Chief AFNQL

For the AFNQL, it is essential that the reconciliation and healing of survivors be at the heart of Pope Francis’ visit. “The Church’s apologies are long overdue, they must be made in welcome and compassion. These more than legitimate expectations cannot be disappointed,” said Mr. Picard.

The Church seems to be on the same wavelength as the leader of the AFNQL and wishes to prioritize the participation of the indigenous communities “in each event organized”.

However, she cannot forget “the thousands of people who come each year for the annual pilgrimage to the basilica”.

Benoit Thibault, president of the coordination table for the Pope’s visit, describes the situation as a “logistical tour de force” since his team only received confirmation of the activities a week ago, thus leaving them very little time to identify accredited persons.

«[Les communautés autochtones] are the largest group represented [lors de la cérémonie]“, However, said Mr. Thibault.

It also seems certain that the event will be unifying and will allow survivors and their loved ones to enter into this “dynamic of healing, reconciliation, hope”.

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