BUENOS AIRES (ARGENTINA)
>>>The Pope’s tour in Chile becomes the worst of his five years of pontificate
January 18, 2018
By Sergio Rubin
La visita tuvo menos presencia de fieles en los actos de lo que se esperaba. Los casos de pedofilia fueron gravitantes en el desánimo.
Todos los indicios preanunciaban un viaje complicado. Acaso el más complicado de todos los que Francisco realizó hasta ahora en sus casi cinco años de pontificado. Porque, a diferencia de otras visitas donde la situación política de cada país desafiaba su capacidad de maniobra, el paso por Chile implicaba críticas o, al menos, indiferencia hacia él mismo y, ante todo, hacia la propia Iglesia chilena. Y efectivamente no la tuvo fácil aquí, el país de América Latina donde menos se valora a Francisco y a la Iglesia católica, y que más fieles perdió: el acompañamiento de la gente fue claramente menor del que se esperaba, sus palabras no tuvieron el habitual impacto y tampoco se acallaron las críticas.
El contraste más evidente fue con el viaje a Colombia, en setiembre pasado: Francisco había jugado fuerte a favor de los acuerdos de paz con la guerrilla de las FARC, un asunto que divide profundamente a los colombianos (hace poco más de un año ganó por poco el rechazo a ellos) y todo llevaba a pensar que la mitad de los colombianos en cierta forma le daría la espalda. Pero su visita –más allá de la suerte de esos acuerdos- fue todo un éxito en cuanto a la respuesta popular y la atención con que se siguió sus prédica por la reconciliación. Dicho sea de paso, más de un observador la tomó como una suerte de anticipo de su mensaje a favor del cierre de la grieta en una eventual visita a su país.
[Google Translation: The visit had less presence of faithful in the acts of what was expected. The cases of pedophilia were gravitating in discouragement.
All the signs forewarned a complicated journey. Perhaps the most complicated of all that Francisco did so far in his almost five years of pontificate. Because, unlike other visits where the political situation of each country challenged its ability to maneuver, the passage through Chile implied criticism or, at least, indifference towards himself and, above all, towards the Chilean Church itself. And indeed it was not easy here, the country of Latin America where Francisco and the Catholic Church are least valued, and which most lost: the accompaniment of the people was clearly lower than expected, his words did not have the usual impact and criticisms were not silenced either.
The most obvious contrast was the trip to Colombia, last September: Francisco had played hard in favor of peace agreements with the FARC guerrillas, an issue that deeply divides Colombians (a little over a year ago he won by little the rejection to them) and everything led to think that half of the Colombians would somehow turn their backs on him. But his visit – beyond the fate of these agreements – was a success in terms of the popular response and the attention with which he followed his preaching for reconciliation. Incidentally, more than one observer took it as a sort of foretaste of his message in favor of closing the crack in an eventual visit to his country.
Now: There is not a single factor that explains why Francisco was not like in other countries. It is true that the case of abuses committed by clerics wreaked havoc especially in the image of the Chilean Church, but also in that of Francisco himself for having named in 2015 bishop of Osorno a prelate accused of covering up the abuses committed by the father Fernando Karadima – the main exponent of these crimes within the Chilean Church – given that for years he was his collaborator in a church in Santiago. But Francisco always defended with emphasis his innocence like yesterday in Iquique before the journalists: “There is not a single test against him, everything is a slander,” he said.
To this we must add the blurring of the once great commitment with the poor that the Chilean Church had, in addition to having been an emblem of the struggle for human rights during the last military dictatorship.
There is no shortage of those who believe that the powerful secretary of state of the Vatican in the second half of the pontificate of John Paul II, the controversial Cardinal Angelo Sodano, was delineating a very conservative Church – and lack of leadership – since his previous visit to the country as Nuncio . And, of course, also the criticisms of the original peoples against the Catholic Church for their role in the conquest.
Finally, there is a fundamental factor: the loss of the religiosity of Chilean society, a drastic phenomenon of the last decades, which did not take place – at least with that intensity – when John Paul II was here almost 31 years ago. Contrary to Central America or Brazil, where the Catholic Church loses the faithful at the expense of evangelical churches, in Chile -although there is a certain evangelical advance- its main challenge is atheism and agnosticism. And, in this sense, it begins to “compete” with Uruguay, the least religious country in the region.
The cultural change in Chile – a country with a Catholic trajectory, unlike Uruguay – is, then, the great underlying problem of the Catholic Church and, of course, of other religions. Is it a process that will be confined to Chileans or that will encompass other peoples as young people -the less religious- reach adults and there is some economic improvement as in the trans-Andean country?
However, it should not be disregarded that Francisco gathered 400 thousand faithful in the O’Higgins park in Santiago, which captivated the most committed faithful, who had very nice gestures like marrying two crew members in mid-flight to Iquique. Perhaps the balance of the trip now requires a look in greater perspective.]
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