Those with tickets to attend the Pope's mass northeast of Quebec City at the end of this month will have a very early start to their day, but a spokesman who questioned whether the schedule would be too hard on Indigenous elders now says it's the best plan.
Organizers for the papal visit to Quebec said only shuttle buses from two designated locations at Videotron Centre or Mont-Ste-Anne will ferry people to the shrine of Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré, northeast of Quebec City, for the July 28 mass.
No vehicles will be permitted on the site and people are being asked to line up at 4 a.m. for the shuttles that will only run between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., with a lengthy wait for the mass, which begins at 10 a.m.
At a briefing last week, Jasmin Lemieux-Lefebvre, a spokesman for the visit and liaison with the Indigenous communities in Quebec, said he wondered if asking residential school survivors, many of whom are elders, to arrive early for shuttles was excessive.
"I didn’t know if it was too much to ask," Lemieux-Lefebvre said, adding he's now convinced the plan is the best one. "We've done the maximum to find the right balance between security and a decent, important welcome for all the survivors of Indigenous residential schools."
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Canada July 24-29, travelling to Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut. A major theme of his visit is reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples for abuse suffered in residential schools – many of which were run by Catholic clergy.
About 1,600 people will be permitted inside the shrine for the event, with about 10,000 on the grounds watching on big screens. Seventy per cent of the tickets are reserved for Indigenous communities and about 2,000 tickets for the general public were snapped up in about 10 minutes.
"If you don't have a ticket, for the love of God, don't show up at Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré," said Benoit Thibault, head of the Quebec organizing committee, describing the plans for the events as a "major logistics operation."
Given the long wait, organizers are encouraging attendees to bring food, a camping chair, parasols and coolers with refreshments. Psychological support services will be offered for Indigenous participants. A small field hospital will also be set up to provide the necessary medical care as well as sanitary facilities.
Pope Francis is expected on site about 45 minutes before the event and will deliver the mass in Spanish, his first language.
Big screens on site outside will offer subtitles in French and English. Through the website of the Pope's official visit, the mass will be translated into a dozen Indigenous languages.
For those without a ticket, they'll be able to watch live at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. Guzzo Cinemas, an independent movie theatre chain in Quebec, will also broadcast the event live at 143 screens at its Montreal-area theatres.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 17, 2022.