Chile: Pope arrives to protests over sex abuse scandal

Pope Francis arrives in Chile for first leg of Latin American tour, with more unrest expected in Santiago.

Pope Francis visits Chile
Pope Francis is scheduled to hold an open-air mass in the Chilean capital of Santiago on Tuesday [Alejandro Olivares/Anadolu]

Pope Francis has arrived in Chile for the first leg of his Latin American papal tour, with protests over alleged sexual abuse within the Catholic Church marking his visit.

Demonstrations are expected to take place throughout the capital, Santiago, on Tuesday, where the pope is scheduled to conduct an open-air mass at 13:30 GMT.

More than 500,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony in Santiago’s O’Higgins Park, according to Chilean newspaper The Santiago Times.

Chilean parishioners criticised the Argentinean pontiff, the first Latin American leader of the Catholic Church, for his decision to appoint Juan Barros as Bishop of the Chilean city of Osorno in 2015.

They say Barros covered up the sexual abuse of dozens of minors by Catholic priest Fernando Miguel Karadima, who was found guilty by the Vatican in 2011.

Almost 80 Chilean priests, deacons and religious brothers who have been accused of molesting children were named in a database published by the Boston-based research group on January 10.

Anger grows

Before the pope’s visit, his first to Chile since assuming the papacy in 2013, protesters vandalised four Catholic churches using firebombs in Santiago on January 12.

They left a note at one site warning the Pope Francis “the next bomb will be in your robe”, according to Latin American broadcaster Telesur.

Other messages called for “autonomy and resistance” from Chile’s indigenous Mapuche people, according to the Catholic News Agency.

Roughly two-thirds of Chile’s 1.5 million Mapuches live in urban squalor and the remainder in impoverished rural communities. They are the country’s poorest and most marginalised segment of society.

Outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet described the attacks as “very strange” and said authorities had been unable to tie the incidents to a “particular group”, Telesur reported.

“In a democracy, people can express themselves as long as it’s done in a pacifist way,” she said and called for a “climate of respect” during the pope’s upcoming visit.

The pontiff will also visit Temuco, where he is expected to meet Mapuches, and Iquique, before travelling to Peru.

Source: Al Jazeera