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1984: Pope John Paul II’s First Visit to Canada

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In 1984, Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to set foot on Canadian soil, when the papal aircraft landed at the airport in Quebec City.

1984Visit_1Already an accomplished traveller, the Pope was on his 24th pilgrimage (after that he was on over 100 worldwide). Wherever he went during his 12-day cross-Canada visit, great crowds flocked to him.

With his arrival on September 9 in the Quebec City suburb of Ste. Foy, the Holy Father began a 15,000-kilometre marathon that took him from the Atlantic to the Pacific. When his stay ended on September 20, he had visited Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Montreal, St. John’s, Moncton, Halifax, Toronto, Midland (Ontario), Winnipeg/St. Boniface, Edmonton, Yellowknife, Vancouver and Ottawa/Hull. Unfortunately, his scheduled trip to Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories was cancelled due to severe weather.

1984Visit_2Millions of Canadians, including many Indigenous people, turned out to greet the pontiff, pray with him and to celebrate, and many of them deeply moved by his words and presence. A good example of this was on September 11, 1984, where tens of thousands of young people crowded Montreal’s Olympic Stadium to see and hear the Holy Father.

Speaking in English and in French, the Holy Father made more than 30 major addresses as well as many other statements, some of which were directed to Indigenous Peoples. He spoke of themes which he has strongly supported throughout his 26-year pontificate: solidarity, justice, peace, the place of youth, the respect of Indigenous cultures, Jesus Christ as a beacon of hope, and many more.

Since 1984, Pope John Paul II returned to Canada twice. In September 1987, he visited Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories and in 2002 he met with young people from around the world to celebrate World Youth Day 2002, in Toronto.

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Canada’s oldest diocese, the Archdiocese of Quebec, was established in 1674. Most Reverend François de Laval was its first Bishop.