20 Years Ago in September: Pope John Paul II’s First Visit to Canada

Thursday, September 09 2004

(CCCB-Ottawa) On September 9, 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.

Already an accomplished traveler, the Pope was on his 24th pilgrimage (since then he’s been 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 the visit 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. In some of those cities, he visited major Canadian pilgrimage sites: Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, Cap-de-la-Madeleine, St. Joseph’s Oratory and the Canadian Martyrs Shrine in Midland.

Millions of Canadians turned out to greet the pontiff, pray with him and to celebrate, 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. He spoke of themes that are still dear to him today, and which he has strongly supported throughout his 26-year pontificate: solidarity, justice, peace, the place of youth, Jesus Christ as a beacon of hope, and many more.

Since 1984, the Bishop of Rome has returned to Canada twice. In September 1987, John Paul II returned to meet the people of Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories, since during his first visit in 1984, severe weather conditions had forced the cancellation of this portion of the trip to visit with Aboriginal Peoples from the North.

Two years ago, the Holy Father came back to Canada to honour his promise to young people to meet with them for World Youth Day 2002, in Toronto. During the closing celebrations, more than 800,000 people faced strong winds and rain to pray in his presence. This was the largest single gathering in Canadian history. The Pope spent six days in and around Toronto, meeting with young people from around the world.