By Santiago Serna Duque
The papal tour through Chile and Peru came to an end Sunday in Lima, where the supreme pontiff celebrated a mass in El Señor de los Milagros church.
He later held a meeting with Peruvian clergymen before finally auspicating a final mass in Las Palmas Air Force Base.
On January 15, Jorge Mario Bergoglio arrived in Chile in the midst of a tense atmosphere due to the burning of various churches and the takeover of the Apostolic Nunciature by the National Association of Mortage Debtors, who protested the staggering cost of the pope´s visit.
As a way to calm the rising tensions and welcome the pope without any major incidents, outgoing Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet, asked for calm from Bergoglio´s detractors.
The protests against the head of the Catholic Church were characterized more by political undertones rather than economic ones.
During the second day of his visit, Pope Francis had lunch with eight representatives of the various Mapuche communities (7% of the country´s population), as a way to calm the anger of the marginalized ethnic group, which called for violent protests upon his arrival.
During the lunch meeting, the Mapuche representatives asked Francis to recognize the “Mapuche genocide”, and also asked him to speak to government representatives as a way to obtain reparations for the numerous deaths of their members through history.
Another one of the big challenges that Francis faced in the southern country was the low rate of credibility engulfing the Catholic Church due to the accusations of pedophilia. Since Augusto Pinochet´s dictatorship (1973-1990), sexual abuse scandals against members of the clergy have tarnished the image of the church in Chile.
During the last two decades, four bishops, 66 clergymen and one deacon have been convicted of sexual abuse.
In the middle of this crisis, Fernando Karadima, known as “the lord of hell” came to light, he is considered the most harmful religious sexual offender in Chile.
The pope came to the defense of Juan Barros, accused of covering up the sexual abuse allegations against Karadima. The pontiff said “the day someone brings forth proofs against Juan Barros I will speak. There is not one proof against him, it´s all a smear campaign ¿is it clear?”
The head of the commission that investigates pedophilia in the Vatican, Sean O´Malley, said that the pope´s words were “a great pain for survivors of sexual abuse”, and added that the church´s failings regarding pedophilia have led to the loss of trust in the church around the world.
The pope´s visit to Peru
On Thursday January 18th, the pope arrived in Lima, Peru, to a different atmosphere. The pope was received by 4,000 members of the indigenous communities from the Amazon rainforest.
In the middle of dances and displays of affection, Francis said that the people of the Amazon were threatened now more than ever, and questioned the conservationist policies that affect the Peruvian rainforest.
In Puerto Maldonado, the pope had lunch with 11 members of indigenous communities. There, he asked for the indigenous communities to be recognized as partners instead of minorities. “all the efforts we make in order to regain the life of the peoples of the Amazon will always be too few”, he stated.
The pope also called on the Peruvian people to put an end to chauvinistic practices that degrade women, and criticized the medical postures that promote the sterilization of indigenous women.
Finally, in the Government Palace in Lima, the pope criticized the “social virus” that affects Peru, corruption, during his speech.
Francis, in a direct jab against president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, said that corruption was the most damaging phenomenon to Latin American countries.
Kuczynski challenged an impeachment attempt in congress, after millions of dollars in payments from the Oebrecht construction company were made to Westfield Capital and First Capital consulting agencies between 2005 and 2006, companies in which the president appears as a stockholder.
“Corruption is a phenomenon that infects everything, mother earth and the poor being the ones most affected by it”, were the words with which the pope finished his visit.
*Ahmed Fawzi Mostefai contributed to this report.