Chileans greet pope with passion, protests
Pope Francis flew in to Chile’s capital Monday night for a visit expected to be met with protests over sexual abuse by priests and confronted by many Chileans deeply skeptical about the Roman Catholic Church.
It’s the pope’s first visit to the Andean nation of 17 million people since taking the reins of the church in 2013. It comes at a time when many Chileans are furious over Francis’ 2015 decision to appoint a bishop close to the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who the Vatican found guilty in 2011 of abusing dozens of minors over decades.
The Rev. Juan Barros, bishop of the southern city of Osorno, has always denied he knew what Karadima was doing when he was the priest’s protege, a position that many Chileans have a hard time believing.
After deplaning, Francis was greeted by President Michelle Bachelet, and a band played while the two walked on a red carpet as night began to fall. The pope traveled in a black sedan to the center of the city, flanked by several cars. He then transferred to a popemobile, waving to small crowds of well-wishers who lined up along avenues.
Crowds were notably thin, particularly compared with papal visits in other Latin American countries.
“Long live the pope!” yelled some as he passed by in the pope-mobile.
Others carried signs criticizing the pope or extolling him to act.
Over the next three days, Francis is scheduled to celebrate Mass in Santiago, the southern city of Temuco and the northern city of Iquique. On Thursday, the pope will go to Peru for a three-day visit.
Francis’ trip was aimed at highlighting the plight of immigrants and indigenous peoples and underscoring the need to preserve the Amazon rain forest. However, sexual abuse by priests has taken front and center in the weeks before his arrival.