Members of the Charismatic Renewal movement from the Greater Toronto Area fly the Canadian flag in downtown Philadelphia on their way to Mass with Pope Francis on Sept. 27. Photo by Michael Swan.

Immigrant Canadians give resounding ‘yes’ to Pope

  • October 1, 2015

PHILADELPHIA - When Pope Francis pleaded with immigrants to hold on to their traditions and culture, a big “yes” rose in Alicia Ledda’s heart. That’s what she came to Philadelphia to hear.

As one of more than 1,000 Canadians in Philadelphia to see the Pope, Ledda knew Pope Francis was speaking to her as well.
Ledda, like Francis, comes from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Though she’s been in Canada 35 years and has raised children and made a life in Toronto, Ledda still speaks accented English and still gets treated like an outsider.

“Other people make you feel that way,” she told me as she marched with 56 entirely Hispanic members of the Charismatic Renewal movement from the Greater Toronto Area.

They were parading through downtown Philadelphia Sept. 27, going to Mass with the Pope. They would endure a long wait to get through security and a longer wait for Francis to arrive and Mass to begin. They flew Canadian flags, but Ledda had an Argentine flag and a few others carried images of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They were happy, singing, they are proud of a Pope they consider one of their own.

For these Canadians, the Pope’s encouragement to immigrants to belong, to play their part in their adopted country — and his corresponding admonishment to the host countries to open up and fully accept them for who they are — was a thrilling moment.

“I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited,” the Pope told them the previous evening. “By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within.”

That wasn’t a message aimed exclusively at the United States, said Ledda.

“Argentina and Canada are my countries. I try to preserve the culture of both countries,” said Ledda.

Her adult children couldn’t attend the papal Mass with her, unable to get time off of work, but Ledda is sure her children share her love for the Pope and her faith.

“It is sad they couldn’t come,” she said.

Alex Sanchez, a Peruvian immigrant to Toronto, said all of Canada’s Latin American immigrants appreciate and understand the Pope when he speaks about globalization, cultural diversity and migration.

“They (immigrants) want to work hard always. They put God first and then the rest,” Sanchez said.

Being there for the Pope is a moment of great pride, an affirmation of who they are as Latin Americans and as Catholics, said Sanchez.

“We need to demonstrate we believe in the values, not only the values but the virtues, of the Church,” he said.

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