Pope Francis will visit Central Alberta later this month. (File photo by The Associated Press)

Pope Francis will visit Central Alberta later this month. (File photo by The Associated Press)

Traffic delays expected for Pope’s visit to Maskwacis

The Government of Alberta is warning Albertans about potential traffic delays next week when the Pope is visiting the province.

The Pope is expected to arrive on July 24 shortly before noon at the Edmonton International Airport before travelling into the city of Edmonton.

Monday, he will travel to Maskwacis to visit the site of the former Ermineskin Indian Residential School and meet with indigenous leaders around 10 a.m.

That event is expected to draw close to 15,000 visitors. The province said there will be restricted access to the QEII, as well as Highway 611 and 2A, in the vicinity of Ponoka, Maskwacis and Wetaskiwin.

“The Government of Alberta supports the papal visit and all efforts on the journey toward truth and reconciliation. The government is providing logistical support and is working with partners to ensure the visit is successful,” the government stated in a release.

“While the government is working to minimize disruptions for travellers on Alberta highways along the papal motorcade routes, motorists can expect delays due to rolling road closures and should use alternate routes where possible. Delays can also be expected on area highways due to increased traffic generated by the events.”

The Ermineskin Residential School is thought to be one of the largest residential school sites in Canada.

The Pope is expected to engage with the public in Maskwacis for about 52 minutes. Organizers anticipate he will visit the residential school site, and may want to pray alone in the church before departing, said former Truth and Reconciliation commissioner and international chief Dr. Wilton Littlechild.

He added that while Maswkacis may not be able to accommodate all those wanting to come to hear the Pope, that there will be other opportunities to gather to hear him while he is in Alberta.

On July 26 the Pope will give a Holy Mass on Commonwealth Stadium, where 80,000 people are expected to attend. He will make a pilgrimage to the site of Lac Ste. Anne later that day, before departing the province on July 27.

-With files from Emily Jaycox, Ponoka News.

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