By Cian Molloy - 14 January, 2018
Despite bombings of churches in Santiago and death threats to his person, Pope Francis’ visit to Chile next week is set to go ahead as planned.
Three churches in Santiago, the capital of Chile, were firebombed on Friday, and leaflets were left by the attackers threatening the Pope, saying the next bombs would be “in his cassock”. Several of the notes said that money being spent on the papal visits would be better spent on the poor.
The Church’s first Pontiff from Latin America, Pope Francis is due to arrive in Chile on Monday 15 January and will visit the cities of Santiago, Temuco and Iquique before leaving on Thursday 18 January to travel to Peru, where he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo. He will return to Rome on Sunday 21 January.
Despite the fact that the Pope is due to meet members of the Mapuche indigenous community in Chile and members of the Amazon’s indigenous peoples in Peru when he is in Puerto Maldonado, there has been some speculation that the firebombings may be related to campaigns for the rights of indigenous peoples. In both Chile and Peru, native peoples have been forced off their lands by ranchers, mining companies and loggers.
However, no one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. Speaking on national radio, Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet said no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, and described the incidents as “very strange”, adding: “In a democracy, people can express themselves as long as they do it in a peaceful way.”
President Bachelet gave assurances for the Pope’s safety while he was in Chile.
There is no doubt that the Pope has championed the rights of indigenous people in recent years. Separate to these visits, Pope Francis will host a special gathering of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in October next year to focus on the Amazon region.
The Synod will seek to identify new paths of evangelisation, the Vatican says, especially for indigenous people who are “often forgotten and left without the prospect of a peaceful future, because of the crisis of the Amazon forest which plays a vital role in the environmental health of the entire planet”.
This is the Pope’s fourth visit to South America since becoming Pontiff. Previously, he has made visits to Brazil, Equador, Bolivia, Paraguay and Colombia. Although not yet officially confirmed by the Vatican, it is almost certain that he will visit Ireland for the World Meeting of Families in August 2018.