Pope begins seven-day pilgrimage to Chile, Peru

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Junno Arocho Esteves

SANTIAGO, Chile (CNS) — Pope Francis
arrived in Santiago, the first stop on a seven-day, six-city visit to Peru and
Chile, where he will take his message of hope to people on the margins of

Arriving in Santiago after more than 15
hours in the air, Pope Francis was greeted by Chilean President Michelle
Bachelet and a young Chilean girl. He told the crowd he was happy to be in
Chile, and he blessed the workers at the airport before being transported to
the papal nunciature, where he will stay the three nights he is in Chile.

On Jan. 17, the pope will travel to Temuco
and meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community. Members of the
Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the
country’s return to democracy in the late 1980s.

“Chile won’t be too difficult for me
because I studied there for a year and I have many friends there and I know it
well, or rather, well enough. Peru, however, I know less. I have gone maybe
two, three times for conferences and meetings,” the pope told journalists
aboard the papal flight.

There was no mention of increased security
for the Chilean visit. Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were
firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in
Santiago. Some of the pamphlets included the phrase, “The next bombs will
be in your cassock” and spoke of the Mapuche cause.

Before flying to Peru Jan. 18, Pope Francis
will visit Iquique, where he will celebrate Mass on Lobito beach.

In Peru Jan. 18-21, will visit Lima, Puerto
Maldonado and Trujillo.

He will also meet with the indigenous people
of the Amazon during his visit to Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon rainforest
includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has
experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous
populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.

In both countries, he will
work to restore trust and encourage healing after scandals left many wounded
and angry at the Catholic Church.

Shortly after take-off from Rome, Greg
Burke, Vatican spokesman, distributed a photo card the pope wished to share
with journalists aboard his flight from Rome.

The photo depicted a young Japanese boy shortly
after the bombing in Nagasaki, waiting in line, carrying his dead baby brother
on his back to the crematorium. On the back of the card, the words “The
fruit of war” were written along with Pope Francis’ signature.

Before greeting each of the 70 journalists,
the pope said that he found the photo “by chance” and “was very
moved when I saw this.”

“I could only write ‘the fruit of war.’
I wanted to print it and give it to you because such an image is more moving
than a thousand words,” he said.

Responding to a journalist’s question about
nuclear war, Pope Francis said: “I think we are
at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to
precipitate things.”

The Peru-Chile trip is Pope Francis’ fourth
to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July
2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in
September was his third visit to the continent as pope.

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Contributing to this story was Jane Chambers
in Santiago.

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Follow Arocho on Twitter: @ArochoJu.

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