Teamwork called the ticket to success as organizers count down to Pope's arrival

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Pope Francis hands a gift to Rosemary Lundrigan, an Inuit delegate during the April 1 visit to the Vatican.  The pope will be in Canada July 24 to 29 and is expected to make an apology for the harm caused to Indigenous people by the Catholic Church. (Vatican Media via Reuters - image credit)
Pope Francis hands a gift to Rosemary Lundrigan, an Inuit delegate during the April 1 visit to the Vatican. The pope will be in Canada July 24 to 29 and is expected to make an apology for the harm caused to Indigenous people by the Catholic Church. (Vatican Media via Reuters - image credit)

With fewer than 10 days before Pope Francis lands in Alberta, the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton is optimistic that teamwork and collaboration will guarantee the success of three huge events that will draw thousands of people.

Marion Haggarty-France, sites co-ordinator for the Pope's visit to Alberta, said similar papal visits have taken years to plan.

"We've had about four months and believe me, we have depended on and relied on the hands and the help of many," Haggarty-France said Thursday. "So for that, I am deeply grateful."

During a Thursday news conference at the Catholic Archdiocese in central Edmonton, Haggarty-France and other key organizers offered a peek at what to expect during the upcoming papal visit from July 24 to 27.

Focus on reconciliation

Haggarty-France said the focus will be on truth, justice, healing, reconciliation and hope during events that will be held in Edmonton, Maskwacis and Lac Ste. Anne.

"For each of these events, they are critically important to our future and the Catholic Church is well aware of that."

The archdiocese is working closely with communities and national Indigenous groups to make sure elders and survivors of residential schools have a designated seat at the events.

"It's just something that we've taken a great deal of thought working with the communities to ensure we get right— or roughly right — versus precisely wrong."

The Pope is expected to make an apology to Indigenous people for harm caused to them by the Roman Catholic Church.

More than 120,000 visitors are expected to attend the papal events, including 15,000 at the July 25 Maskwacis event and 25,000 the following evening at Lac Ste. Anne.

There are also two Edmonton events, including a small ceremony at Sacred Heart Church and a public mass at Commonwealth Stadium.

The costs, estimated at $15 to $18 million, are being covered by partner agencies and through fundraising, Haggarty-France said.

Road closures

Some 65,000 people are expected to attend mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton and another 8,500 in spillover seating at Clarke Field on July 26th.

People can park for free at five city park-and-ride locations starting at 7 a.m.

Nicole Poirier, the city's director of civic events and festivals, said there will be brief road closures as the pope's motorcade goes through the city.

"Those closures will not be for significant amounts of time," she said, adding that people should leave enough time for their commute. "You may have to wait a few minutes in order to get to your destination."

Poirier said the closures around Commonwealth Stadium will be similar to the ones during big concerts and football games.

"Think of Grey Cup — very very similar to what the Grey Cup closures would have been," she said.

The city will provide more details next week about the stadium event.

There are no plans to hold any additional public viewing events for the pope's visit, Poirier added.

Edmonton events 

Some 65,000 people are expected to attend mass at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton and another 8,500 in spillover seating at Clarke Field on July 26th.

People can park for free starting at 7 a.m. at five city park-and-ride locations.

Nicole Poirier, the city's director of civic events and festivals, said there will be brief road closures as the Pope's motorcade goes through the city.

"Those closures will not be for significant amounts of time," she said, while adding people should leave enough time for their commute. "You may have to wait a few minutes in order to get to your destination."

Poirier said the closures around Commonwealth Stadium will be similar to the ones during big concerts and football games.

"Think of Grey Cup — very very similar to what the Grey Cup closures would have been," she said.

The city will provide more details next week about the stadium event.

There are no plans to hold any additional public viewing events for the pope's visit, Poirier added.

Police presence

Edmonton police are boosting staff to provide security to the Pope and the general public.

Supt. Dean Hilton said city police are working with RCMP to make sure there's sufficient presence to provide the best public safety.

"With any event, we expect there's going to be more issues with certain areas," Hilton said. "Members will be stretched to a point where we're able to provide the security we need at the event as well as our operational policing."

Police are asking people to follow rules, including road closures.

"There will be fencing put up in certain areas. We need people to respect the fencing. If there are real barriers in place for vehicles, we need people to respect those things as well.

Motorist advisories

July 24 – Pope Francis arrives

  • Expect highway closures and limited access to the QEII when the Pope travels from the Edmonton International Airport to his destination in Edmonton.

July 25 – Maskwacis

  • Expect restricted access to the QEII and highways 611 and 2A in the vicinity of Ponoka, Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin.

July 26 – Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage

  • Expect highway closures and limited access along highways 16, 43 and 633 when the Pope travels between Edmonton and Lac Ste. Anne.

July 27 – Pope Francis departs

  • Expect highway closures and limited access to the QEII when the Pope travels from Edmonton to the airport.

The Canadian visit will conclude July 29 after visits to Quebec City and Iqaluit.

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