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Churches attacked on the eve of Pope Francis’ trip to Chile and Peru

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Santiago de Chile (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A few days before Pope Francis’s trip to Chile and Peru (15-18 January and 18-22 January), three churches in the Chilean capital were firebombed yesterday morning: Santa Isabel de Hungría (pictured), Cristo Vencedor in Peñalolén, and in Jesús Maestro parish. An explosive device was neutralised in time at the Cristo Pobre shrine in Matucana.

Local media have reported that a group of anarchists led by former presidential candidate Roxana Miranda occupied the apostolic nunciature for several minutes to protest against “the millions spent” to welcome the Pope in Chile.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet condemned the attacks against churches whose perpetrators remain unknown.

In a statement, the archbishopric of Santiago expressed sorrow over the attack, calling on the culprits to show “respect and tolerance for everybody, to build a homeland of brothers”.

Leaflets left during the attacks warned the Pope Francis that “the next bombs will be in your cassock.”

Yesterday’s incidents are the first protest against Francis during an apostolic trip. In this one, he faces several problems amid tensions, according to media.

In Chile, the scandal against dozens of priests accused of pedophilia is still reverberating.

Peru is still shaken by charges of sexual abuse against Luis Fernando Figari, founder of the Sodalitium Christianae Vitae (Christian Life Association), which the pope has placed under direct Vatican control a few days ago.

Vatican Press Office director Greg Burke said that the pontiff might meet some pedophilia victims, but privately.

In Peru, the pope will support and release a message in favour of the Amazon and indigenous peoples. But some of the most extremists, especially among the Mapuche, have slammed the Church and demanded the return of their lands.

In reality, the Holy Father is among the greatest supporters of the indigenous cause and backs the protection of the Amazon.

Church representatives in Chile and Peru note that Francis’s critics are part of small groups, not the majority of the population.

As evidence they cite the great number of people (especially young) involved in the preparation (8,000 volunteers in Chile alone) and the number of those who have signed up to welcome him in Santiago: 1.2 million.

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