Churches burn before papal visit

Churches burn before papal visit

Pope's visit to Chile's La Araucania region is sensitive. Francis also plans to meet with representatives of the Mapuche indigenous people there. Shortly before the event, radical activists carried out several arson attacks, including on churches.

Three helicopters set on fire in region just hours before Pope Francis' arrival in southern Chile. Two of a forestry company's machines were completely destroyed Wednesday morning (local time) in Arauco Province, Governor Humberto Toro told Radio Cooperativa. Only 150 kilometers further south, a mass with the Pope was planned for Wednesday in Temuco, where he was to speak out on the oppression of the indigenous Mapuche.

The Mapuche have been demanding the return of expropriated lands for decades. Many of them are now in the hands of forestry companies. Leaflets signed by Mapuche activists were found at the scene of the arson attack.

In addition, six small chapels went up in flames in 48 hours. According to media reports, a letter of confession was also found at the crime scenes there, which points to radical Mapuche as the authors. Recently, there have been repeated arson attacks on church facilities in Chile, to which radical Mapuche have claimed responsibility. The group "Weichan Auka Mapu" justified their attacks by claiming that church representatives were partly responsible for repression against the Mapuche.

Mapuche were disenfranchised and dispossessed

The Mapuche are the indigenous people in the south of Chile and Argentina. After Chile's independence in 1818, disenfranchisement began in the 1860s: invasion of the army, expropriation, decline of their own tradition and language. Only in recent years has there been a reconsideration of the country's own culture and identity. A small minority is becoming politically radicalized. The Mapuche are among the poorest and least educated segment of the population.

"Pain and shame"

In addition to meeting with Mapuche representatives, speaking with abuse victims of Catholic clergy is one of the main themes of the pope's visit to Chile. Francis had met with them on Tuesday in "strictly private terms," according to Vatican spokesman Greg Burke. The pope's apology for the Chilean church's abuses is the focus of today's press coverage of the papal trip.

The newspaper "La Tercera" shows on its front page an aerial view of the open air service with 400.000 visitors in Santiago the day before. "Pope asks forgiveness for clergy sex abuse and meets with victims". In an article, the paper reports on page one, "Presence of victim Juan Barros in program generates polemics". The newspaper "La Cuarta" also focuses on the Pope's apology. On the front page, the pope is seen adding, "He feels pain and shame".

The trip is also being closely followed in Argentina, the pope's neighbor and home country. "More than a gesture, a commitment to stop the flight of Catholics," comments "La Nacion" on the Pope's public apology surrounding the abuse scandal in Chile. In addition, "La Nacion" notes that the new president-elect of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, did not get an appointment with the Pope, but only a cold greeting. "Clarin" also reports on page one about the Pope's handling of the abuse scandal: "The Pope asked forgiveness for abuse, but had an accused at Mass".

Protests also topic

In Brazil, the newspaper "O Globo" addresses the protests on the sidelines of the Pope's visit. "Pope asks forgiveness for child abuse in Chile" reads page one, with a picture next to it of a protester in the headlock of two police officers. In Peru, the next stop on Francis' visit, "La Republica" puts a quote from the pope on page one, which also features a picture of Francis and Chile's president, Michelle Bachelet. "I feel shame for the abuse of children," he is quoted as saying there.

Meanwhile, the paper also takes up the reporting from the USA: "The New York Times and the Sodalicio case" can be read there. The paper goes into the processing of the abuse cases around the community "Sodalitium Christianae Vitae".

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