An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
POPE FRANCIS won’t be coming to Kamloops during his visit to Canada in July. Instead, he’ll make stops in Edmonton, Quebec City and Iqaluit.
The rationale behind the itinerary makes sense: the pope’s health is becoming frail and his mobility is impaired, so limits have to be put on his travels. The three stops that have been outlined cover off the country from east to west to north and will provide opportunities for him to meet with a large number of residential school survivors.
Public response in Alberta, Quebec and Nunavut has been positive, as is to be expected, but it’s one of disappointment in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and especially B.C.
It had been hoped Pope Francis would visit Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc, which hand-delivered an invitation during the recent delegation to the Vatican by indigenous representatives.
If there’s any chance to adjust the Pope’s schedule, a strong case can be made for including Kamloops and TteS. There is, in fact, a precedent that proves issues of timing and security can be fully met.
That precedent is the visit by Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1986 during Expo. That event was preceded by meticulous planning and was carried out with minute-by-minute military precision.
The Royal Couple arrived at Kamloops Airport and were driven to Riverside Park where they brought greetings, watched the mounted drill team and a children’s choir, did a walkabout, heard speeches from dignitaries, and then returned to the airport.
The entire thing took one hour, 55 minutes. Minus the walkabout, of course, a similar strategy could be used for a visit by the Pope. Travel time between the airport and TteS is totally manageable, and the TteS grounds lend themselves to the kind of tight security that would be needed for the pope.
His visit here need not be lengthy, complicated or tiring. Two hours, in and out. The important thing is that he come.
Adding a quick stop here could still happen.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.