Pope begins seven-day pilgrimage to Chile, Peru

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Pope Francis walks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet as he arrives at the international airport in Santiago, Chile, Jan 15. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

On January 15 Pope Francis arrived in Santiago, the first stop on a seven-day, six-city visit to Peru and Chile, where he will take his message of hope to people on the margins of society.

Arriving in Santiago after more than 15 hours in the air, Pope Francis was greeted by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a young Chilean girl.

He told the crowd he was happy to be in Chile, and he blessed the workers at the airport before being transported to the papal nunciature, where he will stay the three nights he is in Chile.

On Jan. 17, the pope will travel to Temuco and meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community.

Members of the Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the country’s return to democracy in the late 1980s.

Pope Francis greets journalists aboard his flight from Rome to Santiago, Chile, January 15. PHOTO: CNS/Paul Haring

“Chile won’t be too difficult for me because I studied there for a year and I have many friends there and I know it well, or rather, well enough. Peru, however, I know less. I have gone maybe two, three times for conferences and meetings,” the Pope told journalists aboard the papal flight.

There was no mention of increased security for the Chilean visit. Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in Santiago.

Some of the pamphlets included the phrase, “The next bombs will be in your cassock” and spoke of the Mapuche cause.

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