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Pope Francis waves at the crowd as he makes a lap at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton on July 26.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

As the modified 2015 Jeep Wrangler known as the Popemobile slowly cruised the interior perimeter of Commonwealth Stadium before a crowd of tens of thousands of people on Tuesday, Gerrin and Liza George rushed down the aisle and held their seven-month-old baby, Gianna, out to a security officer on the ground.

The officer, in turn, passed the baby up to Pope Francis.

He kissed her on the forehead, and the crowd – watching the scene unfold on massive screens around the stadium – erupted into cheers.

“We feel so excited and thrilled,” said Ms. George, who had travelled with her family from Calgary to see the Pope in Edmonton. “Our prayers have been answered and heard.”

The mood at Tuesday’s mass was markedly different from what it had been at the community of Maskwacis the previous day, where the Pope delivered a historic apology for the abuse and mistreatment of Indigenous children at Catholic-run residential schools.

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The Edmonton event was the pontiff’s first appearance open to the broader public, and drew an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people, who began filing into the outdoor stadium two or three hours before the Pope was to arrive.

“We are here because, to us, Francis represents hope and change for the Catholic Church,” said Angela Jackson, who had travelled from Canmore, Alta., for the appearance. “He represents openness and acceptance of different groups of people, like LGBTQ people, who have been shunned in the past. Our faith should be about universal love and acceptance.”

Pope Francis spoke of honouring grandparents, the importance of family history and a future where violence and marginalization of Indigenous people is never repeated during an outdoor mass in Edmonton on Tuesday.

The Globe and Mail

In his speech at Commonwealth on Tuesday, Pope Francis spoke of the connection between generations, and asked people to consider questions like, “I have a unique and irreplaceable role in history, but what mark will I leave behind me? What am I passing on to those who will come after me?”

He spoke in Spanish, which was translated into English.

“It is easy to criticize, but the Lord does not want us to be mere critics of the system, or to be closed and backwards-looking,” the pontiff said. “Rather, he wants us to be artisans of a new history, weavers of hope, builders of the future, peacemakers.”

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It was a hot and sunny day in Edmonton, and the diverse crowd of faithful included people of all ages and backgrounds, including Indigenous people in traditional dress or orange Every Child Matters shirts. There was some merchandise available – hats and T-shirts – and an overall atmosphere of celebration and excitement leading up to the mass.

The crowd cheered and applauded, taking pictures and filming videos on cellphones as Francis did a lap of the stadium in the Popemobile.

  • Pope Francis waves the the crowd as he makes a lap at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail

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Brian Lucas, a member of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, said he and his family drove 14 hours to reach Edmonton to see Pope Francis.

“I have no reason to hate him or the Church, though both my parents were in residential schools and they had awful problems with alcohol and gambling,” he said.

Mr. Lucas said that he accepted the Pope’s apology, and felt it was time to move forward.

“I don’t want to hold onto resentment because I don’t want to pass on resentment to my children and grandchildren,” he said. “I have learned that it is more important is to treat everyone with dignity and respect.”

The mass took place on the day the Roman Catholic Church marked the feast of Joachim and Anne, who Catholics believe were the grandparents of Jesus. The 85-year-old pontiff has often spoken about what he learned from his grandmother Rosa growing up in Buenos Aires, and he used the occasion to repeat his frequent appeals to younger generations to cherish their grandparents and learn from them.

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Regitte Leguro, who is originally from the Philippines and now lives in Bon Accord, Alta., travelled in with her three children and sister for the mass. She said seeing the Pope in person felt like a blessing, and that she wanted her son with special needs, Jett, to see him.

By the time mass started, Jett was watching an Old MacDonald Had A Farm video on a cellphone in the concourse, where some worshippers gathered to stay out of the sun or entertain children.

“It is heavenly. When you see the Pope, it is an aura of peacefulness and calmness,” Ms. Leguro said.

She said she supported Pope Francis’s decision to apologize to Indigenous people, and said it was humbling.

“It is about time. It is nice of him to come out on behalf of all the Catholics,” she said, adding: “It is good to bring peace to other religions and cultures as well. About time for us to be as one.”

Jessica Nguyen, who flew to Edmonton from Vancouver to be in the presence of the Pope, said it was important that he apologize to Indigenous people in Canada for the harm caused by residential schools, and that she found his apology sincere.

“We Catholics live for love, for forgiveness,” she said.

Where the Pope will be on visit to Canada

Iqaluit

0

150

KM

NWT

NUN.

Hudson

Bay

ALTA.

MAN.

SASK.

Lac Ste. Anne

NFLD.

Edmonton

QUE.

Maskwacis

ONT.

Winnipeg

Quebec City

UNITED STATES

Montreal

Toronto

Sun., July 24: Depart Rome; arrive Edmonton

Mon., July 25: Edmonton; Maskwacis

Tues., July 26: Edmonton; Lac Ste. Anne

Wed., July 27: Depart Edmonton; arrive Quebec City

Thurs., July 28: Quebec City

Fri., July 29: Depart Quebec City; arrive Iqaluit; Rome

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office

Where the Pope will be on visit to Canada

Iqaluit

0

150

KM

NWT

NUN.

Hudson

Bay

ALTA.

MAN.

SASK.

Lac Ste. Anne

NFLD.

Edmonton

QUE.

Maskwacis

ONT.

Winnipeg

Quebec City

UNITED STATES

Montreal

Toronto

Sun., July 24: Depart Rome; arrive Edmonton

Mon., July 25: Edmonton; Maskwacis

Tues., July 26: Edmonton; Lac Ste. Anne

Wed., July 27: Depart Edmonton; arrive Quebec City

Thurs., July 28: Quebec City

Fri., July 29: Depart Quebec City; arrive Iqaluit; Rome

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office

Where the Pope will be on visit to Canada

Sun., July 24: Depart Rome; arrive Edmonton

Iqaluit

Mon., July 25: Edmonton; Maskwacis

Tues., July 26: Edmonton; Lac Ste. Anne

Wed., July 27: Depart Edmonton; arrive Quebec City

Thurs., July 28: Quebec City

Fri., July 29: Depart Quebec City; arrive Iqaluit; Rome

Hudson

Bay

ALTA.

SASK.

MAN.

Lac Ste. Anne

NFLD.

Edmonton

QUE.

Maskwacis

ONT.

Winnipeg

CANADA

UNITED STATES

Quebec City

PEI

N.B.

Ottawa

Montreal

N.S.

Toronto

0

150

KM

THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; Bulletin of the Holy See

Press Office

Her husband, Joseph, said it was a blessing to have their six-month-old infant and two-year-old toddler be able to witness the Pope at such a young age.

“It is a once in a lifetime chance to have this opportunity to come to mass in person,” said Mr. Nguyen, while feeding their older child lunch in the stadium’s concourse. “We’re blessed and fortunate.”

Tens of thousands of people took communion under orange umbrellas. After the mass, the pontiff travelled to Lac Ste. Anne, a sacred Indigenous meeting place where tens of thousands of Catholic pilgrims gather each year.

At Lac Ste. Anne, thousands of people waited for hours in the sun for the pontiff’s arrival.

As he travelled to the shore, the crowd of faithful strained to see him, with people calling out to him, “Father” and “Your Holiness.”

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Sitting underneath a stark white crucifix at the shoreline, he spoke briefly in English, delivering a short prayer before being taken in his wheelchair down to the water’s edge. He sprinkled water at the shore, and then went on to the shrine, where he delivered a prayer service in Spanish about the meaning and traditions of the Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage.

He was slated to depart Edmonton on Wednesday morning, flying to Quebec for the second leg of what he has called his “penitential pilgrimage,” the first visit of its kind by any pope. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict made apologies for church abuses, but never made contrition the focus on any single trip.

Pope Francis apologized Monday for the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse at residential schools in Canada. Speaking through a translator, the Pope said that while there were “many instances of devotion and care for children,” the overall effects of residential school policies were “catastrophic.”

The Globe and Mail

With a report from Patrick White and The Canadian Press

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