On a delicate mission

On a delicate mission

Pope Francis begins his program of visits to Chile. Among other things, a speech to representatives of politics and society and a private conversation with the outgoing president Michelle Bachelet are planned.

Francis then celebrates his first major Mass in a park in downtown Santiago. For this purpose, up to 400.000 people expected. Also scheduled to visit a women's prison and meet with priests and religious, bishops and confreres from the Jesuit order.

Francis is also expected to meet with the oldest bishop of the Catholic Church. Bernardino Pinera Carvallo, archbishop emeritus of La Serena, is 102 years old and an uncle of President-elect Sebastian Pinera.

Meeting with Pinera

Pinera was born in Paris in 1915 and grew up in France. Studied medicine and theology at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. In 1947 he received the priestly ordination for the archdiocese of Santiago de Chile. Pope Pius XII. appointed Pinera auxiliary bishop in Talca in February 1958. In 1960, Pope John XXIII appointed. Pinera to be bishop of Temuco. Pinera attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).

Pinera resigned as bishop of Temuco in 1977 to concentrate on his duties as secretary general of the Chilean Bishops' Conference. In 1983, he was appointed archbishop of La Serena and from then until 1988 held the presidency of the Chilean Episcopal Conference. Pope John Paul II. Accepted his resignation from office due to age in September 1990.

World's oldest Catholic bishop

Pinera is the oldest Catholic bishop in the world since the death of U.S. Peter Leo Gerety in September 2016. At the celebration of his 100th birthday. According to the Chilean Bishops' Conference, he said on his 60th birthday: "All times in the church are good times. Because a bishop, a priest, a good Christian always has the possibility to love and to grow with love."

Bishops even more senior than Pinera are the oldest cardinal in the universal Church, Colombian Jose Pimiento Rodriguez (98), and Polish Jesuit Dominik Kalata (92). The latter has lived in Staufen near Freiburg im Breisgau since 1976.

Encounters with the oppressed

A meeting of the pope with members of the oppressed Mapuche minority on Wednesday is awaited with particular excitement. In addition, Francis will meet relatives of the Association of Missing Victims from the military dictatorship (1973 to 1990) in Chile. They asked the Pope for help. "We will ask the pope to tell the military that there must be an end to the collusion and concealment. We want to know where our relatives are – without exception," one of the victims' representatives told Chilean media on Tuesday (local time).

In Chile, during the dictatorship under General Pinochet (1973-1990), according to official figures, some 33.000 people imprisoned and tortured for political reasons. Round 3.200 people died as a result of state violence; 1.192 people disappeared without a trace.

Reception on the tarmac

Francis had arrived in Santiago in the evening. It is the start of a week-long visit to Chile and Peru. The 22. Pope's foreign trip is his fourth visit to South America.

On the tarmac, Francis was received by outgoing President Michelle Bachelet. Also present to greet the crowd were Santiago's Cardinal Ricardo Ezzati and the president of the Chilean Bishops' Conference, Military Bishop Santiago Silva Retamales, as well as other representatives of the state and the church. Two children in traditional dress presented flowers to the pope. The head of the church was also received by the Youth Orchestra of Chile. The Popemobile was protected by a very dense network of security guards.

In a departure from the program, the pope briefly visited the tomb of Jesuit auxiliary bishop Enrique Alvear Urrutia (1916-1982) in the parish of San Luis Beltran after his arrival. The bishop had been particularly committed to the poor and disadvantaged. On the pope's route, Chileans demonstrated against sexual abuse in the church.

Land of social contrasts

In Chile, the government is currently changing from Socialist Bachelet to center-right entrepreneur and billionaire Sebastian Pinera. Many people in the country are concerned that the now expected economic liberal growth course could be at the expense of social security and education.

The social contrasts in Chile, with its 18 million inhabitants, are great. Hundreds of thousands of people live in poverty despite the country's very high economic output by continental standards. Many formerly self-employed small farmers now work in large agricultural enterprises that produce mainly for export.

A good two-thirds of Chileans are Catholics; but values are changing. In the fall, abortions were partially legalized by law; since 2015, same-sex partnerships have been recognized – both with broad support among the population.

Greeting to Argentina

During the first flyover of his native Argentina since his election as pope in 2013, Francis had sent a telegram of greetings to President Mauricio Macri. "During my flight through Argentine airspace, I send you friendly greetings. To all the people of my homeland, I send heartfelt good wishes and are them of my closeness and blessings."

For the fact that the telegram to Macri had been expected with a certain tension, the text is kept quite sober. The fact that Pope Francis has not yet visited Argentina in his five years in office is being registered with increasing impatience in the country. Unlike other telegrams, the pope ended his greeting to Macri and the Argentines with his frequent request on public occasions to pray for him.

There are no official reasons why Francis has yet to visit Argentina as pope. Companions and observers suspect, among other things, that he fears being instrumentalized in internal Argentinean political disputes.

Chile expects rush of Chilean pilgrims

To accommodate the rush of Argentine pilgrims, Chilean authorities and the church in Temuco have built about 15.Sent 000 tickets for the papal mass to border crossings. There, according to local media reports, they will be distributed to Argentine pilgrims who plan to attend the Pope's service at Base Maquehue on Wednesday.

Chilean authorities expect a total of around 800 people to visit the country during the papal visit, which runs until Thursday.000 Argentines in Chile to see their compatriot live. Since his election about five years ago, the Pope has not yet visited his home country Argentina.

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