By Christopher Lamb
January 9, 2018

People walk near a banner with an image of Pope Francis on the facade of the cathedral in Lima, Peru, Jan. 3. On 15 January, Pope Francis will begin a six-day visit to Chile and Peru

Opinion polls say that just 36 per cent of the Catholic majority population are looking forward to the papal visit

Pope Francis departs on Monday for a trip to Chile and Peru for what will be his sixth visit to Latin America, where issues of clerical sexual abuse and church renewal are likely to feature. 

The question of abuse is likely to loom largest in Chile where the Pope has faced criticism for appointing Osorno’s Bishop Juan Barros, accused of covering up abuse by a prominent priest, Fr Fernando Karadima in the 1980s and 90s.

Peter Saunders, a British abuse survivor who recently resigned as a member of the Pope’s child protection commission, says he plans to be in Chile to try and highlight the case. Bishop Barros’ appointment has been a divisive one with 650 people turning up in protest during his ordination ceremony that saw the new bishop needing protection from ushers in order to enter the cathedral. 

In impromptu remarks to a group of Chilean pilgrims following a Wednesday General Audience, the Pope criticised Osorno’s protesters saying leftist politicians were leading them “by the nose” and had been allowed to “fill people’s heads, judging a bishop without any evidence.” The Vatican judged Karadima to have abused children and sentenced him to a life of prayer and penitence. Bishop Barros, who was accused of protecting Karadima, has denied covering up. 

Meanwhile, opinion polls say that just 36 per cent of the Catholic majority population are looking forward to the papal visit with the surveys citing indifference, irritation with the Chilean hierarchy and scepticism about the cost (officially 10 million Chilean pesos or £122,000).   

The Pope’s trips to the two countries will follow a similar format to his others: he will meet with the country’s presidents, bishops and say Masses in front of large crowds. While in Chile he will make time for lunch with indigenous Mapuche people from the Araucania region and in Peru have a meeting with people of the Amazon. 

The Mapuche meeting could prove controversial given they lived in Chile before Spanish colonisers arrived in the sixteenth century, and there are ongoing land disputes between the Government and the indigenous people.


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