Pope Urges Chile Govt to 'Preserve' and 'Listen to' Indigenous Groups

Peter Castro
January 17, 2018

Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in Santiago.

Pope Francis kicked off his visit to Chile by asking forgiveness for the sexual abuse of children by priests, a scandal that has damaged the credibility of the Church in the predominantly Catholic country.

He was met by President Michelle Bachelet at Santiago's airport on Monday.

Addressing the issue, pontiff expressed "pain" and "shame" at the "irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the Church".

"Although, we have committed ourselves to ensuring that such things do not happen again".

When reporters asked how he sees the world with political uncertainties, the pope said: "I think we are at the very edge".

"When people make a mistake it's necessary that they ask for forgiveness", said Monica Reyes, a nursing assistant who attended the pope's speech at the presidential palace.

Francis' visit to Chile is expected to be fraught with a high level of opposition.

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While once a stronghold of the Catholic Church, Chile is now among Latin America's most secular nations, and the image of the church has taken a severe hit over what many see as a cover-up. In 2015, Francis appointed a bishop who had been close to the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who abused dozens of minors over decades.

Barros has denied any knowledge of the abuse.

Although Francis has pledged a "zero tolerance" policy on abuse, he has had to walk a fine line in the matter and many inside and outside the church accuse him of not acting decisively enough. But the pontiff could also be welcomed with protests, threats of violence and controversy over allegations of abuses by the Catholic Church. Others have been vandalized, according to the country's interior subsecretary, Mahmud Aleuy.

"Even though the media has been preoccupied with talking about the church's polemics and especially about the figure of the Pope, I think that the most important thing here is to think about the message that the Pope will bring", said one Santiago resident.

"People are leaving the church because they don't find a protective space there", Juan Carlos Claret, spokesman for a group of church members in Osorno that has opposed Barros' appointment as bishop, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. "The pastors are eating the flock".

The fact that even the Pope is anxious about a possible nuclear war is indeed concerning.

Francis' words were delivered amid unprecedented opposition to his visit: Three more churches were torched overnight, including one burned to the ground in the southern Araucania region where Francis celebrates Mass on Wednesday.

The Pontiff has often flagged the danger of nuclear warfare and in November he seemingly hardened the Catholic Church's teaching against nuclear weapons, saying countries should not stockpile them even for the objective of deterrence.

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