Protests Arise in Chile in Preparation for Pope Francis’ Official Visit
Various churches have been bombed in Chile as a reaction to Pope Francis’s official tour of Chile which commences on Monday, Jan 15.
A note was left at the scene of the bombs reading: “The next bombs will be in your cassock.”Barrels of flammable liquid were also found at two other churches in Santiago but were handled by respective authorities without incident.
The latest attack occurred on Sunday afternoon, marking the sixth bombing incident over the past few days. Another anonymous note was left stating, “The only church that illuminates is the one that burns, the one that is in flames. No to the Pope.”
President Bachelet commented on these attacks via radio on Friday: “In a democracy, people can express themselves as long as they do it in a peaceful way.” So far, no one has been linked or arrested for the attacks. Moreover, no injuries or fatalities have been reported.
It is believed that the papabile discontent towards Pope Francis’s visit and towards the Catholic Church stems from the Vatican’s past history of overlooking child sexual abuse scandals. Protester, Silvana Gonzalez, commented during a gathering held in the capital: “We are not happy to receive him [Pope Francis], because he says one thing and does another. The Church continues covering up abuses and the Pope rewards the culprits.”
Pope Francis once promised to reform the Vatican’s position on sexual abuse, vowing to commit to a zero tolerance policy for sexual abuse. In tandem he also established a special commission to investigate the issue. He has been criticized by many Chileans and other Latin Americans for failing to follow through with his commitment. The unrest follows the Pope’s decision to name Father Juan Barros as Bishop of Osorno, an individual who has been accused of covering up abuses for “Chile’s most notorious pedophile priest, Fernando Karadima.”
Additionally, protesters condemn the Catholic Church for its treatment of the Mapuche indigenous people, a marginalized group who has been “pushing for a return of ancestral lands and other rights.” Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with the Mapuche people in a celebration of Mass as part of his tour of Chile.
In light of these attacks, President Bachelet invited the people of Chile to “experience this visit in a climate of respect, solidarity, and happiness.” Finally, despite obvious security concerns, the Pope is still planned to carry out his visit this week in Chile.