Archbishop Richard Smith, seen here with student Josephine Larocque, told St. Francis school students Pope Francis was pleased with them.


Archbishop Richard Smith, seen here with student Josephine Larocque, told St. Francis school students Pope Francis was pleased with them.

July 7, 2014

Pope Francis likely won't be visiting Edmonton's St. Francis School but he is pleased the students invited him.

The pope's response came via a letter from Archbishop Angelo Becciu of the Vatican's Secretariat of State to Archbishop Richard Smith.

In the June 9 letter, Becciu thanks the students for a video presentation they sent to the pope earlier this year and says, "He appreciates your thoughtful gesture."

In January the 264-student elementary school sent Pope Francis a video invitation to their school along with a letter from the archbishop.

At the time, Principal Kathy Dekker said she would love if the pope came but she would settle for a response from him by the end of June.

In the letter, Becciu asks Archbishop Smith to convey the pope's gratitude to the students and to impart his apostolic blessing upon them.


Smith personally delivered the papal response to the school June 25. Sitting quietly in their classrooms, the students and their teachers listened attentively as the archbishop read Becciu's letter and commented on its significance via video broadcast.

"Congratulations; this is a very big thing and I am very, very proud of you," he told the students.

In an interview after the broadcast, Smith said the pope is letting the children know he received their letter and video.

"He wanted me to thank them for this and he also wanted me to tell them that he is giving each of them his special apostolic blessing, a special blessing from the pope."

"I'm so proud of these guys that I decided to come and deliver the (pope's) message to them in person," Smith said in front of a handful of students who were with him in the broadcast room. "The pope makes you pretty special and I do too."

Principal Dekker was pleased.

"I was so nervous the response wasn't going to come at the end of the school year," she said. "It would be lovely next year, but it wouldn't mean the same to the children because it would be a different group of children and different administrators."

Dekker was also pleased that Smith came to deliver the message.

"He squeezed it in because it was so important to him to come to the school and give the response personally. It means so much more to the children to have His Grace come than just to get the letter."

Student Zoey-Renee Sanderson, 11, said she was happy the pope responded before the end of school year because she is graduating from Grade 6 and will go to a different school next year.

"If the response had come next year, it wouldn't have been that special anymore," she said. "It's pretty amazing that the pope took time for us."


The St. Francis School video begins with several students saying "Hello" to the pope in different languages, from Cree to Spanish to Tagalog to various African languages.

Then it displays the classrooms and the students, emphasizing that St. Francis School houses students from many cultures, including 150 aboriginal children.

There are scenes of students, teachers and families in different activities throughout the video, which was professionally shot by Edmonton Catholic videographer Allan Au.