Tune in for a surprise this weekend when we offer a “best of” Vatican Insider: one of my stories on the Vatican Observatory (1st segment of the show) and A Visit to Rome (second segment), a conversation with the postulator of Saint Mother Teresa’s cause for canonization. No news summary or Q&A this week!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Right now, if snow were to really fall on the Eternal City, you’d have a few million happy people who have been suffering extremely hot temperatures for almost three months. Of course, we’d have to rush for sweaters and coats but that would be welcome clothing – and we’d probably want sunshine again tomorrow!

Snow is falling in Rome as I write, falling from the ceiling of one of the four papal basilicas in Rome, Our Lady of the Snows, aka St. Mary Major.

It was just too hot today to stand in line for security and then stand in a jam-packed church for some time so I offer some photos I took a few years ago (I now have far better camera!).

The other three papal basilicas, by the way, are St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls and St. John Lateran. By the way, these four basilicas, with three others, constitute the 7 must-visit pilgrim churches in Rome. The remaining three: St. Sebastian, Holy Cross in Jerusalem (with relics of the crucifixion) and St. Lawrence – San Lorenzo al Verano.

Now about the annual snowfall:

The year was 358 A.D. John, a Roman patrician, and his wife, unable to have children, had been praying faithfully to the Virgin, asking her to give them a sign as to whom they should leave their enormous patrimony. The night of August 4-5, one of the hottest of the year, Mary appeared to the couple in a dream and requested that they build a church in her honor where snow would fall that night.

John and his wife went to tell their friend Pope Liberius of their dream and to their amazement discovered that the pontiff had had the same dream. That morning, August 5, one of Rome’s seven fabled hills, the Esquiline, was covered in snow, as witnessed by John, his wife, the Pope and his entourage, and a throng of Romans.

Pope Liberius took a stick and traced the sign of the future basilica in the snow, a basilica that would be forever known as Our Lady of the Snows, in addition to the name it bears today, St. Mary Major, the greatest – and the oldest – Marian church.

The feast of Our Lady of the Snows was introduced that year and has been commemorated ever since on August 5. Each year, there are two celebrations on that day. In late afternoon during a liturgy, usually vespers, thousands of white flower petals, symbolizing the miraculous snowfall, are released through one of the square panels of the basilica’s glorious gilt ceiling. In the evening, about 9 pm, outside the basilica, white flower petals are showered down on the faithful who have gathered to commemorate that event.

The snowfall:

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The basilica:

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If you are ever in Rome on August 5 go to St. Mary Major in mid-afternoon or about 9 at night to witness the snowfall and participate in a liturgy (put that on your calendar for next year!)

I did a brief video on my very first trip years ago (see following link) but want to return next year with my now far superior phone camera (



There was a very interesting one-sentence announcement from the Vatican press office today: “The Holy Father has named Massimiliano Strapetti, nurse coordinator of the Vatican’s Health and Hygiene Department (direzione) as his personal health assistant.”

No further explanation or clarification was provided by the press office or any other source.

What can this mean?

The Vatican – Vatican City – has a health and hygiene center and a remarkable and well-stocked pharmacy with a sizeable staff of pharmacists. To become a pharmacist in Italy requires 5 years of intense studies and then passing a very demanding, rigorous exam.

The Vatican health center is for current employees of Vatican City State and the Roman Curia, as well as for retirees. There is a main administrative office and the center is staffed by dozens of physicians of all specialities, as well as the generic “family doctor.” Doctors usually work here two half days a week, in either morning or afternoon sessions. However, all have their own private studios or offices and many are on full time staff at some of Rome’s hospitals.

There are facilities for x-rays and for Doppler and other exams, though the center is not equipped like a full-fledged hospital. There is no “pronto soccorso” or emergency service, such as would be needed for victims of a serious accident, although it was here that Pope John Paul II was brought immediately after being shot on May 13, 1981, attested to by a floor plaque in the main building entrance.

There is, however, a “guardia medica” on duty from 7am to 8pm. This is a kind of emergency medical office, staffed by 3 or 4 doctors, for issues that are usually minor or for patients who have health questions. If a diagnosis is serious and a person needs to be hospitalized, there is a specific office for that at the health center.

Medical personnel is always available for events in the Paul VI Hall, Vatican Museums, the basilica and St. Peter’s Square.

This may be more information than you need but I want to point out that medical care at the Vatican is quite comprehensive.

Although I do not know for certain, I would hazard a guess that even at 3am, for example, a doctor is on call somewhere.

Certainly for the Holy Father, should such a need arise. And/or for cardinals residing in Vatican City.

Popes have always had their own personal physicians. We probably knew more about Pope John Paul’s doctors than any other pontiff in history. Many of us who have covered the Vatican for years can remember, without looking them up, the names of the doctors who took care of him in 1981.

A physician has always accompanied the popes on apostolic journeys, be they short or long.

Years ago, a friend who was a flight attendant told me a fascinating story when we met for dinner on her overnight stay.

Suzanne was shopping on Rome’s celebrated Via Condotti and wanted to buy an upscale purse. A flight attendant colleague had recommended a leather shop near Via Condotti, so she went to the address provided, walked up for the second floor and found what she called “the most fascinating and beautiful leather shop” in Italy!

The owner became a professor of leather as he showed Suzanne around and explained how purses, suitcases, jewelry boxes, etc. were made. During their conversation he showed her a beautiful piece of workmanship, explaining that it had been ordered by the Vatican for the doctor who travelled with popes! He had just finished it and was about to deliver it.

Suzanne told me it had numerous compartments for whatever a physician might need to put inside. She said every aspect of the physician’s bag was beyond perfect craftsmanship, adding, “it will probably last 100 years.”

I return to the original question: What does it mean that the pope chose a “personal health assistant”?

It is clear from the announcement that Strappeti is a nurse. He will obviously now be working more closely with the papal doctor, Roberto Bernabei.

By the way, Pope Francis has said of Strappeti “he saved my life” as it was Strappeti who, last summer, persuaded the Pope to have colon surgery.

Why did the Pope deem it necessary to have a personal health assistant? Is Strappeti needed for the daily therapy that Pope Francis is undergoing for his ongoing knee issue? Tomorrow, August 5, marks 3 months that we have seen the pope use a wheel chair.

Or is there an underlying health issue with the Holy Father that we know nothing about that Strappetti is to oversee?

I do not like speculation but we know nothing more than what we were told today.

Pope Francis often ends encounters with individuals or groups the same way he ends the Angelus on Sundays, asking people to pray for him.

And that we will do, Holy Father!


On Thursday, the Jesuit review La Civilta Cattolica published the exchange between the Jesuit Pope and his fellow Jesuits that took place in the archbishop’s residence in Québec City on the last day of his penitential pilgrimage to Canada. Francis touches on synodality, concern for Haiti, the Church’s love for families, and liturgy as ‘the people of God’s public praise!’

The full text of the conversation, written and published by Fr. Antonio Spadaro, the Editor-in-Chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, can be read here. (vaticannews)



Pope Francis resumed the weekly general audience today, welcoming pilgrims in the air-conditioned Paul VI Hall, given the extremely high temperatures in Rome. He walked into the hall from an adjacent anteroom, walking slowly and using a cane. Pilgrims were delighted to have the Holy Father once again in their midst!


Pope Francis resumed the weekly Wednesday general audience after a July break, and dedicated his catechesis to his recent Apostolic Journey to Canada, a penitential pilgrimage dedicated to embracing indigenous peoples who suffered injustices over the centuries.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov (vaticannews)

The audience was held in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall due to the intense summer heat in the Italian capital.

During his catechesis, the Pope recalled his “penitential pilgrimage” to the North American country, focused on healing and reconciliation with the nation’s indigenous peoples who suffered attempts to erase their culture and identity.

These injustices were perpetrated in the infamous historic government-funded residential schools system, with the cooperation of many members of the local churches.

In his remarks, the Pope remembered his time in Edmonton, Quebec, and his stop in the Arctic city of Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut Territory.

A “penitential” visit like no other

The Holy Father said it was “a visit like no other.”

“In fact, the main motivation was to meet the indigenous peoples to express to them my closeness and my sorrow, and to ask for forgiveness – to ask for forgiveness – for the harm done to them by those Christians, including many Catholics, who in. the past collaborated in the forced assimilation and enfranchisement* policies of the governments of the time.”

In this sense, the Pope explained, his journey “was undertaken in Canada to write a new page,” and continue to walk together, always closer, with the indigenous peoples.

The Pope pointed out how apropos the motto of “Walking Together” was for the journey.

Repentance and reconciliation

Much analysis, the Pope suggested, “shows that, on the one hand, some men and women of the Church have been among the most decisive and courageous supporters of the dignity of the indigenous peoples, coming to their defence and contributing to raising awareness of their languages and cultures.”

“But, on the other hand,” he added, “there was unfortunately no shortage of those (who) participated in programmes that today we understand are unacceptable and contrary to the Gospel.”

In this sense, he reiterated, this visit was penitential, and even if there were many joyful moments, “the meaning and tone of the whole was one of reflection, repentance and reconciliation.”

Rejecting mindset of colonization and promoting indigenous

In Edmonton, he said, there was an honest and sorrowful remembrance of the past, which continued in Quebec with “a plea” for reconciliation born of hope through Christ, and concluded, in Iqaluit, with confident trust in the “healing” made possible by the power of the Risen Lord to make all things new.

The Church’s desire, as it explicitly acknowledged the wrongs of the past, the Holy Father suggested, rejects the mindset of colonization, and esteems and promotes the indigenous cultures.

Pope Francis concluded by praying, “May the fortitude and pacific action of the indigenous peoples of Canada be an example for all indigenous peoples not to close themselves up, but to offer their indispensable contribution for a more fraternal humanity, that knows how to love creation and the Creator, in harmony with creation, in harmony between you all.”

* (“Enfranchisement” was the process of changing the civil status of Indigenous peoples from “Indians” to full Canadian citizens – a process of assimilation that often came at the expense of their indigenous identity. Originally voluntary, enfranchisement became compulsory in 1876 and remained so into the 1960s.)


During his weekly general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis recalled the second anniversary of the devastating Beirut Port explosion.

Speaking of the “dear Lebanese people, “ he told pilgrims, “I pray that everyone may be consoled by faith, comforted by justice and truth, which can never be hidden. I hope that Lebanon, with the help of the international community, will continue on the path of rebirth, remaining faithful to its vocation to be a land of peace and pluralism, where communities of different religions can live in fraternity.”

In fact, it was on August 4. 2020 that an explosion occurred at the Beirut port that was so powerful that it killed over 215 and injured thousands, and so extensive that massive damage was caused to area buildings, stores, offices, and churches. Beirut will be rebuilding for years. (vatican media)

To read more: Pope Francis recalls second anniversary of Beirut Port explosion – Vatican News




Pope Francis releases his prayer intention for the month of August, urging special prayers for small businesses.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov (vaticannews)

As August kicks off, Pope Francis is calling on Catholics to pray for small and medium-sized businesses, so that “in the midst of economic and social crisis, they find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities.”

The Pope released his monthly prayer intention on Tuesday in a video prepared by the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network. (NB: video ahs English subtitles)

In the message, he recognizes the “courage, effort and sacrifice” of small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, and acknowledges that they are among the most affected by “the grave socio-economic crisis,” brought to new heights by wars and the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.

According to statistics for 2021 from the World Bank, one in four companies lost half of their volume of sales because of the global pandemic. Further exacerbating their reality is that they do not receive adequate public assistance.

Constant sacrifices and hard work to help others

In his video message, the Pope praised those who through their workshops or shops “invest in life,” by “generating well-being, opportunities and work.”

The Holy Father acknowledged their hard work and constant sacrifices made, in order to invest in the common good.

“Stores, workshops, cleaning businesses, transportation businesses, and so many others. The ones that don’t appear on the world’s richest and most powerful lists, and despite the difficulties, they create jobs, fulfilling their social responsibility.”

The Holy Father concluded his video message remembering the value of small businesses.

“Let us pray for small and medium-sized businesses, hard hit by the economic and social crisis, so they may find ways to continue operating, and serving their communities.”

The ‘great importance’ of small businesses

Father Federic Fornos, S.J., the International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Network, reflected on the intention.

“The crises that we are going through, are—as the Pope says—a ‘Noah moment,’” he said, are “an opportunity to build something different. In this sense, small and medium-sized businesses are of great importance, with their creative force and their capacity to contribute solutions from the bottom up.”

“Without them, it would not have been possible to make it through the COVID crisis, and they continue to be necessary now. This is why it is important to pray for them.”

Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and Pope Video

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network is a Vatican foundation, with the mission of mobilizing Catholics through prayer and action in response to the challenges facing humanity and the mission of the Church. Founded in 1844 as the Apostleship of Prayer, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network currently is present in 89 countries and is made up of more than 22 million Catholics. The Pope Video is an official global initiative with the purpose of disseminating the Holy Father’s monthly prayer intentions.


Kazakhstan’s capital of Nur-Sultan is a 6 ½ hour flight from Rome. The return flight is 7 ½ hours. The country is 4 hours ahead of Italy.

FYI: The Palace of Peace and Reconciliation will be the focal point of the Pope’s attendance at the conference. It has been a top tourist and visitors’ site since 2006, offers unique cultural and religious exhibits and spaces for meetings and cultural encounters. One of the more unusual facts is its diagonal moving elevator inside, one of only several in the world. It is also called the Pyramid of Peace and Reconciliation.

TUESDAY, 13 September 2022 Rome – Nur-Sultan

07:15 Departure by airplane from Rome/Fiumicino international airport to Nur-Sultan

17:45 Arrival at Nur-Sultan international airport

17:45 – 18:30   Official welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in Nur Sultan

18:45 Courtesy visit to the president of the republic

19:30 Meeting with the authorities, civil society and the diplomatic corps at the Qazaq concert hall. Address of the Holy Father

WEDNESDAY, 14 September 2022 Nur-Sultan

10:00   Silent prayer of religious leaders. Opening and plenary session of the “VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions” at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Address of the Holy Father

12:00   Private meetings with various religious leaders at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation

16:45 Holy Mass in the Expo Grounds. Homily of the Holy Father

THURSDAY, 15 September 2022   Nur-Sultan – Rome

09:00 Private meeting with members of the Society of Jesus at the Apostolic Nunciature

10:30 Meeting with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and pastoral workers in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cathedral. Address of the Holy Father

15:00 Reading of the Final Declaration and Conclusion of the Congress at the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. Address of the Holy Father.

16:15 Farewell ceremony at Nur-Sultan international airport

16:45 Departure by airplane from Nur-Sultan international airport to Rome

20:15 Arrival at Rome/Fiumicino international airport



Pope Francis will make his 38th Apostolic Journey abroad to Kazakhstan in mid-September, visiting the city of Nur-Sultan on the occasion of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov (vaticannews)

In a statement on Monday, Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office announced: “Accepting the invitation of the civil and ecclesial authorities, Pope Francis will make the announced Apostolic Journey to Kazakhstan from 13-15 September this year, visiting the city of Nur-Sultan on the occasion of the VII Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.”

The Congress is to be held in the Kazakh capital.

The theme of this year’s event will be “The Role of Leaders of World and Traditional Faiths in the Socio-Spiritual Development of Humanity after the Pandemic”.

Pope Francis with the media on papal flight from Canada:

Every three years, religious leaders from around the world gather at the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, in Nur-Sultan.

In 2003, former Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev called for the first such Congress.

He drew inspiration from Pope St. John Paul II’s 1986 Day of Prayer for Peace convened in the Italian hill town of Assisi, which brought together various religions and leaders to promote interreligious dialogue, peace and harmony.

The ‘Spirit of Assisi’ meetings became an annual tradition held each year in a different city in Europe.

Pope’s continued interest in visiting

In early April, the Pope spoke about this possible journey during a live video conversation he held with Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

On the return flight from his Apostolic Visit to Canada, the Pope reiterated his hope to go.

“For the moment, I would like to go to Kazakhstan. That wouldn’t be too rigorous of a journey,” he said.

He reaffirmed his interest in being present at the congress of religions, and observed that it would likely not be overly physically demanding.

Quick facts about Kazakhstan

On 16 December 1991, Kazakhstan gained its independence from the former Soviet Union.

According to the Pew Research Center, the country is at least 70% Muslim, and about 25% Christian, of which less than 1% is Catholic.

St. John Paul the II was the first Pope to visit Kazakhstan, 22-25 September 2001, with the motto of “Love one other.”



Last Sunday, July 24, the Church marked the Second World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. This weekend, in the interview segment of “Vatican Insider, I replay, in Part II, my conversation of last July with Catherine Wiley, grandmother and founder of Catholic Grandparents Association (CGA) and Marilyn Henry who coordinates CGA in the United States. Both women are grandmothers and both have exceptional lives and stories.

Catherine was truly the catalyst for this now annual World Day. For years, she had an idea, a dream that, after meetings with Vatican officials and Pope Francis, culminated in last year’s First World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. A great story of love and determination! And teamwork with Marilyn at her side!

IN THE UNITED STATES, you can listen to Vatican Insider (VI) on a Catholic radio station near you (stations listed at or on channel 130 Sirius-XM satellite radio, or on OUTSIDE THE U.S., you can listen to EWTN radio on our website home page by clicking on the right side where you see “LISTEN TO EWTN.” VI airs at 5am and 9pm ET on Saturdays and 6am ET on Sundays. On the GB-IE feed (which is on SKY in the UK and Ireland), VI airs at 5:30am, 12 noon and 10pm CET on Sundays. Both of these feeds are also available on the EWTN app and on ALWAYS CHECK YOUR OWN TIME ZONE! For VI archives: go to and write the name of the guest for whom you are searching in the SEARCH box. Below that, will appear “Vatican Insider” – click on that and the link to that particular episode will appear.


Today, July 29, is the longest day of the papal trip for Francis, a day in which he has several morning encounter in Quebec, departs for Iqaluit for further meetings with indigenous and then takes leave of Canada for Rome.

As I write, the Pope has started his day that included private mass and a meeting with Canadian Jesuits (Pope meets with Canada’s Jesuits – Vatican News).

He just concluded his 25-minute meeting and talk with indigenous populations at the archbishop’s house in Quebec, telling them he “leaves Canada greatly enriched by indigenous peoples.” (Pope: ‘I leave Canada greatly enriched by indigenous peoples’ – Vatican News) 

Francis then greeted and thanked the personnel of the archbishop’s residence, and is on his way to the Quebec airport for the three-hour flight to Iqaluit.

Home to about 7,500 people, half of whom are Inuit who have fished here for thousands of years, Iqaluit – “the place of many fish” – is the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut and the northernmost city in Canada.

In Iqaluit, at the La Nakasuk Elementary School, he will meet privately with a group of alumni of the residential schools. Nakasuk was an Inuk born in the Northwest Territories, now Nunavut, at the beginning of the twentieth century, who is considered the founder of Iqaluit.

The school building is one of the four elementary schools in the city and is distinguished by its unique, hermetic shape due to the scarcity of windows, a two story fibreglass ice block inspired by the traditional igloo.

After his meeting, Francis will go to an adjacent square to meet with young people and the elderly where traditional songs, dances and music will be performed, and the Pope will deliver his final speech of this trip.

The papal plane departs for Rome at 6:45 pm local time and is scheduled to land on Saturday, July 30 at 7:50 am Rome time.



JUST IN FROM HOLY SEE PRESS OFFICE 7 PM: “On the way back from the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Pope Francis stopped to meet the guests of the Fraternité St Alphonse Reception and Spirituality Center. Welcomed in the garden of the structure by permanent guests and by those who habitually frequent the center, in total about 50 people, including elderly people, people suffering from various addictions and HIV / AIDS patients, and by the director in charge, Fr André Morency , the Pope talked informally with them, listening to their stories and collecting their prayers. At the end, in greeting them, he gave them an icon of the virgin ‘Our Lady of Jerusalem’.”

The icon presented by the Pope has a beautiful, carved wood frame:


THIS MORNING at 10 am local time, Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the Shine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in eastern Canada, near Quebec, and recalls that Jesus always walks with us to help us move beyond our failures toward hope in God. At the start of the fifth day of his Apostolic Journey to Canada, Pope Francis presided over Mass in the National Shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, some 30 kilometers east of Quebec. The Pope traveled by car to the oldest pilgrimage site in North America, which was first built in 1658 to house a miraculous statue of Jesus’ grandmother.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the conclusion of Luke’s Gospel, which recounts the journey of the disciples to Emmaus and their encounter with Jesus, whom they did not initially recognize. Pope at Mass in Canada: ‘Jesus leads us from failure to hope and healing’ – Vatican News

THIS AFTERNOON at 5:15 local time, in Quebec’s Notre Dame cathedral, Pope Francis will celebrate Vespers with the bishops of Canada, together with priests, deacons, consecrated people, seminarians and pastoral workers. After an introduction by the president of the Canadian Episcopal Conference, Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jérôme e di Mont-Laurier, vespers will be celebrated in French, English and Latin, followed by a brief reading in French and then Pope Francis’ homily.

Following vespers, Cardinal Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, archbishop of Quebec, will accompany the Holy Father to the tomb of St. Francis de Laval for silent prayer. Several relics of Canadian saints are currently exposed for veneration in the cathedral.





During Mass celebrated at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on Tuesday – the feast day of Sts Joachim and Anne – Pope Francis reflects on the important role of grandparents in passing down the faith, and highlights the need to preserve the memory of those who preceded us. In the homily, the Holy Father invited everyone to think about their own grandparents, as the Church celebrates the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, in whose home the child Jesus came to know his relatives and “experienced the closeness, tender love and wisdom of His grandparents.” Francis highlighted that we are children of a history that needs to be preserved – not isolated individuals – as no one comes into the world detached from others. Thus, our roots and families in which we grew up are part of a unique history that preceded us and gave us life. Pope in Canada: Preserve your history to protect your future – Vatican News


Wednesday morning at 8 am local time, The Pope greeted the personnel of St. Joseph Seminary, his home in Edmonton for 3 nights, and gifted the seminary a statue of St. Joseph before leaving for Edmonton airport for his flight to Quebec, due to land just after 3 pm, local time.

His only meeting in Quebec on Wednesday will be at La Citadelle, the official residence of the governor general of Canada where he will meet with Governor General Mary May Simon, Prime Minister Trudeau, civil authorities, representatives of indigenous peoples and members of the diplomatic corps. Mary May Simon is the daughter of an Englishman, a fur trader in the Hudson’s Bay Company, and an Inuk, and has dedicated most of her life to helping indigenous peoples, especially the Inuit.

Photo pris le 09 aout 2011 en matinee par le Cpl Robert GRL de la Citadelle de Quebec de concert avec l’aide du 430 ETAH.

La Citadelle is the largest British fortress in North America. Located at the top of Cap Diamant in the Old Quebec historical quarter, the start-shaped citadelle was built by British engineers between 1820 and 1850. It is a world heritage UNESCO site.





Yesterday afternoon, Monday, Pope Francis met with members of the Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples in Edmonton, and said reconciliation is a gift of Christ to move forward in the wake of the pain caused by the Church’s role in the Canadian residential school system. Pope: ‘Christ, crucified in Canada’s residential school students, reconciles us’ – Vatican News

As I write, Pope Francis is celebrating Mass in Commonwealth stadium in Edmonton.

This afternoon, local time, Pope Francis will travel to Lac Ste. Anne, where he will participate in the Lac Ste Anne pilgrimage and preside over Vespers.

Today, July 26, is, of course, the feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, our Blessed Mother and grandparents of Jesus.

Lac Ste Anne is a wide and shallow lake about 72km west of Edmonton and has been a Catholic pilgrimage destination since the late 19th century. Thousands of pilgrims come to this lake each year to bathe in its holy waters and pray.

Called ‘Lake of God’, by the Nakota Sioux and ‘Lake of the Spirit’ by the Cree people, it was named ‘Lac Ste Anne” by Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault, a missionary and the first priest to establish a permanent Catholic mission, in 1842, in Alberta, in this place already considered sacred for generations and known to the natives as a place of healing.

The first annual pilgrimage was organised by the Oblates in July 1889 and 400 people took part. In 1926 5,500 people took part in the pilgrimage. It has since continued each year, during the week of 26 July, the feast of St Anne, mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus, who is venerated in many indigenous Canadian communities. It has also become one of the most important spiritual gatherings for pilgrims in North America and is particularly dear to the First Nations peoples, who continue to attend annually.

The site was declared a National Historic Site by the Canadian government in 2004. (Vatican news)



While I have this first report on Pope Francis’ historic trip to Canada, I will not be covering every papal event throughout his stay. EWTN television has some very thorough coverage planned with some terrific guests with commentaries, information and history, including the always very well-informed Fr. Raymond de Souza, a native of Canada. In addition CNA, EWTN’s news network, is covering every event at length, as is, of course, the Vatican news portal (


As you know, Pope Francis departed for Canada on Sunday morning on the 37th foreign trip of his papacy. He arrived in Edmonton, western Canada, in late morning, local time. Edmonton is 8 hours behind Rome. Pope Francis will be in Canada until early Friday evening, leaving Iqaluit in northern Canada for Rome at 6:30 pm local time.

Sunday also marked the Second World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly. The cardinal vicar of Rome celebrated Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for this world day, and the Holy Father spoke of this during an encounter with the 80 journalists on the papal plane, saying, “It’s Grandparents’ Day…. the ones who have passed on the history, traditions, habits and many other values….(they are) the roots who must be treasured.”

In remarks with the media, Francis stressed that his current trip is a “penitential pilgrimage” aimed, as he said last Sunday at the Angelus, at reconciliation and healing with Canada’s indigenous peoples. In a dark period of the nation’s history, indigenous children were separated from their families and communities and forcibly integrated into Canadian culture by placing them in residential schools. Most of the schools were church-run, with many administered by Catholic religious orders.

Last March, Francis met with representatives of the First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples in the Vatican, apologizing for that they suffered, often at the hands of religious orders.

While in Canada, it is expected that Francis will issue an apology in the name of the Church for abuses committed against indigenous students in Catholic-run residential schools.

UPDATE: Pope Francis made a passionate apology in his first speech to indigenous in Canada:

Numerous meetings with indigenous peoples mark Francis’ five days in Canada, including two meetings Monday in Edmonton, one of which is with indigenous Catholics. (vatican media)

Wednesday in Quebec the Pope has a meeting with indigenous and several are on his itinerary Friday, the longest day of the trip when, after a 5-hour flight, he arrives in Iqaluit. Home to about 7,500 people, half of whom are Inuit who have fished here for thousands of years, Francis will meet the former residential school students, young people and elders before departing for Rome. Iqaluit – “the place of many fish” – is the capital of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, one of the former Northwest Territories. It is the northernmost city in Canada.

Only two events are scheduled for each day, except for Wednesday when there is a single event at the Citadel in Quebec, an encounter with civil authorities, representatives of the indigenous populations and the diplomatic corps.

This morning, the Pope was driven by car to Maskwacis, 100 kilometers from Edmonton, for his first meeting with indigenous. Maskwacis in the Cree language means “bear hill.”

The Pope was welcomed at the entrance of Our Lady of Seven Sorrows church by the parish priest and some elders of the First Nations, Métis and Inuit populations, The Pope, members of the papal entourage and chiefs of the indigenous peoples then continued on foot to the cemetery, accompanied by drum sounds. Pope Francis was in in a wheel chair, from which he prayed silently.

A monument honoring the survivors of the Ermineskin Indian Residential School, Maskwacis, Alberta (Vatican media)

All then proceeded to the Bear Park Pow-Wow Grounds, where a ceremony, including dance and music and invocations by the indigenous and the papal address took place.

Francis is the second Pope to make an apostolic journey to Canada. Pope John Paul made three trips in 1984, 1987 and 2002. He met with indigenous peoples several times, during which he praised their culture and traditions as well as called for respect for their rights. He acknowledged that, “the hour has come to bind up wounds, to heal all divisions.”

On one trip, he said, “Not only is Christianity relevant to the Indian people, but Christ, in the members of His Body, is Himself Indian.”

Given the pain and discomfort he has been suffering for several months due to issues with a knee ligament and a fracture in a bone of the right knee, the fact that Pope Francis has made every effort to fulfil a promise he made to the indigenous in March to travel to Canada is quite remarkable.

I’m sure you saw the photos taken yesterday of the Holy Father being brought aboard the ITA plane by an elevator, given the difficulty of climbing the stairway. He deplaned in the same manner. (Daniel Ibanez EWTN)

A golf cart was made available for the Pope for his morning encounter in Maskwacis with the indigenous but he stayed in the wheelchair.