OTTAWA (CCN) — Pope Francis has indicated he will not visit Canada in 2017 but has left open the possibility of a papal visit in 2018 or 2019.
That means he will not be present as Canada marks the 150th anniversary of Confederation next year, nor for Montreal’s 375th jubilee celebrations.
The decision also postpones the possibility of a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action issued in June 2015 requesting the pope “issue an apology to survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools” on Canadian soil.
News of the pope’s decision came in a Nov. 30 letter from the papal nuncio to the president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“His Holiness Pope Francis has asked me to share with you his response to the invitation to visit Canada during the course of 2017,” the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi wrote Bishop Douglas Crosby of Hamilton. “In this regard, with gratitude for the invitations received, Pope Francis wishes to communicate that it will not be possible for him to visit Canada in 2017, but it is his earnest hope to consider the possibility of including Canada among the destinations of his apostolic visits at the time of planning his travels for 2018-2019.”
The nuncio asked in the letter that Crosby communicate the news to the Canadian bishops.
Invitations to Pope Francis came not only from Canada’s bishops. One of the first requests came in February 2015 when Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre and Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine visited the pope in Rome and invited him to attend Montreal’s 375th anniversary.
Through the Montreal archdiocese’s website, Lépine thanked Pope Francis for considering the visit.
“The presence of the Holy Father would certainly have generated great enthusiasm here,” the website said. “All the same, ‘the 375th anniversary of Montreal remains a unique opportunity to highlight the spiritual dimension of the city’s origins,’ ’’ says the archbishop in a Dec. 8 pastoral letter.
Senator Murray Sinclair, who co-chaired the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, was not available for comment.