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Huge crowd gathers as pope's pilgrimage moves to Canada’s Quebec province

A huge crowd gathered Wednesday to see and hear Pope Francis as the pontiff took his self-titled "pilgrimage of penitence" to the overwhelmingly Catholic province of Quebec.

Thousands gathered on the Plains of Abraham, arguably the most significant historical site in Canada. It was on this plain in Quebec City where in 1759, English forces with their Indigenous allies defeated the French and Indigenous peoples who aided France. The victory culminated in the French ceding what is now Canada to England.

Before touring and greeting the crowds, the pope spoke in the Citadelle, an active and historical military building in Quebec City. He followed speeches by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Governor General Mary Simon. The latter is the first Indigenous person to hold that position. She is Inuk. The speeches were broadcast to the crowds.

As he has done throughout his visit, which began July 24 and ends July 29, the pope apologized for the Catholic Church's major role in the horrors of the Indian Residential Schools.

"I express my deep shame and sorrow," the pontiff said. "I beg forgiveness."

These words continued the reconciliation the pope has tried to establish between the church and the three Indigenous groups - the Metis, First Nations and Inuit.

About 60% of Canada's 139 Indian Residential Schools, first created in the 1820s, were run by Catholic religious orders and an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend, in some case taken violently from their parents.


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