Pope Francis has ended his three-day visit to Chile and departed for neighboring Peru. In addition to a large service on the beach, the head of the church visits victims of a neighborhood devastated by flooding.
Pope Francis today begins his program of visits to Peru, the second stop on his Latin American tour. The head of the church arrived late Thursday afternoon (local time) for his three-day stay; Francis was greeted at the airport in Lima by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
Afterwards he went to the Papal Embassy. On Friday morning, the head of the Catholic Church will fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Peruvian Amazon, near the border with Bolivia. There he meets with representatives of Amazon peoples. In the afternoon (local time) is scheduled to return to Lima.
Talks with victims of the Pinochet regime
After the grand closing service in Iquique, even before he left for Peru, Pope Francis met with a victim of the Pinochet regime in Chile. He spoke with Hector Marin Rossel, whose brother was abducted and killed shortly after the coup led by General Augusto Pinochet in September 1973. According to Vatican sources, Marin called on the pope to work hard to clarify the fate of the disappeared during the military dictatorship of 1973 to 1990. Marin, who now heads an association of victims' relatives, was 17 years old at the time; his murdered brother Jorge was 19.
Marin reportedly handed the pope a letter asking him to lobby the military and the Chilean government to cooperate with the bereaved families. They wanted to find inner peace, Marin wrote.
Open ear nurtures hope
Francis listened openly and accepted the letter, the Vatican press office quoted the man as saying after the meeting. Accordingly, Marin praised the Catholic Church in Chile for its defense of human rights. In pope's hand is hope to see missing relatives again, Marin says.
In Puerto Maldonado, a meeting with representatives of the Amazonian peoples is scheduled for today. The extraction of raw materials and the threat to cultural identity, as well as the rights of indigenous peoples, are likely to be topics of discussion. The meeting is seen as a prelude to a Vatican Amazon synod that Francis plans to convene in 2019. Only in the evening the formal welcome in Peru takes place in the presidential palace in Lima.
Other items on the program in Peru
On Saturday, the pope will celebrate a large Mass on the beach near Trujillo. He then visits a residential neighborhood that was hit by severe flooding in April 2017 in the wake of the El Nino climate phenomenon. After meetings with women religious and Peruvian bishops in Lima and a Mass, Francis flies back to Rome on Sunday.
Previously, the pope had visited the neighboring country of Chile for three days. In addition to religious services and meetings with leading politicians, the program included meetings with victims of abuse and members of the Mapuche minority, as well as a conversation with a victim of the military dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990).
Critical tones and flash wedding
Concluding his visit to Chile, Francis urged unity in Iquique and called for solidarity with migrants. The first part of his Latin American trip to Chile was accompanied by debates about Bishop Juan Barros, who was criticized for an abuse scandal. He is accused of covering up sexual misconduct by a priest. There is no reliable evidence of this so far. The pope stood protectively in front of him.
A flash wedding officiated by the pope on his domestic flight to Iquique caused a stir on Thursday. Two flight attendants said "I do" once again in front of Francis. In civilian clothes, the couple has been married for eight years. They had told the pope that their church wedding planned in 2010 had to be cancelled because their church was destroyed by an earthquake. In response, Francis asked, "Do you want to marry? Let's do this then."