Published: Tue, January 16, 2018
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

Small crowds greet pope on first visit to Chile

Small crowds greet pope on first visit to Chile

In the pontiff's 22nd overseas visit, he will meet an unprecedented degree of hostility on his native continent.

The Argentine pope is almost a native son, having studied in Chile during his Jesuit novitiate and he knows the country well, but Chileans give him the lowest approval rating among the 18 Latin American nations in the survey.

"These so-called "friends of the pope" do not help because they're part of the "grieta" - or crack, as Argentines call their political polarization - "and media, interestingly, present them as spokesmen of the Holy Father", said Tito Garabal, a Catholic journalist in Buenos Aires, who has known Pope Francis for more than 20 years.

The Pope's trip to South America has already been marred by protests, threats and violence, following a series of firebomb attacks in the Chilean capital Santiago ahead of the pontiff's visit, with three churches vandalized.

Pope Francis took off from Rome on his 22 foreign visit with a warning against countries flirting with nuclear warfare.

Last November, the Pope addressed a Vatican conference on disarmament, saying the possession of nuclear weapons is to be "firmly condemned" because "they exist in the service of a mentality of fear that affects not only the parties in conflict, but the entire human race".

Including the latest firebombings, nine churches have been attacked in Chile since Friday. Karadima has not served any jail time since found guilty by both the Chilean government and the Vatican, but was sentenced by the Vatican to a lifetime of "penance and prayer".

President Michelle Bachelet and a young Chilean girl greeted him on his arrival in Santiago City after a 15-hour flight.

Chile's Catholic Church had already begun losing relevance when in 2010 it was found to have covered up for a prominent and powerful priest who sexually abused minors in his posh Santiago parish.

The Rev. Juan Barros, bishop of the southern city of Osorno, has always denied he knew what Karadima was doing when he was the priest's protege, a position that many Chileans have a hard time believing.

It's not clear if the pope will meet with sexual abuse survivors during his trip, the AP reports.

Protesters carried signs with messages like, "Burn, pope!" and "We don't care about the pope!"

Sixty of the migrants and refugees carried their homeland's national flags into the basilica before the Mass and hundreds wore the national dress of their countries, including numerous people who read the prayers of the faithful and brought up the gifts at the offertory during the multilingual Mass.

The parishioners accuse Bishop Barros of using his position in the Catholic Church to try to block an investigation into the actions of his mentor, Catholic priest Fernando Karadima.

He also plans sessions with migrants, members of Chile's Mapuche indigenous group and victims of the 1973-1990 military dictatorship.

The trip is the fourth to South America for Francis, the only pope born in the Americas. "We want to find a solution to this", she says referring to her group's vocal opposition to the ordination of Juan Barros as bishop of Osorno.

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