In Chile, pope focuses on ending division, segregation and abuse

Paul Haring | Catholic News Service

TEMUCO, Chile — Celebrating Mass in a land steeped in indigenous history and culture, Pope Francis said the greatest threat facing humanity is the stifling of differences driven by the idea that some cultures are better than others.

Greeting members of the Mapuche people and other indigenous peoples living in southern Chile Jan. 17, Pope Francis recognized the suffering and injustice endured by the indigenous population.

"Seen through the eyes of tourists, this land will thrill us as we pass through it, but if we put our ear to the ground, we will hear it sing: 'Arauco has a sorrow that cannot be silenced, the injustices of centuries that everyone sees taking place,'" Pope Francis said, quoting famed Chilean songwriter Violeta Parra.

In his homily at the Mass at Maquehue Airport in Temuco, the pope also acknowledged that the area, while rich in history and beauty, brought memories of "sorrow and pain" and "was the site of grave violations of human rights."

Maquehue Airport, a Chilean air force base, was used as a torture and detention center during the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990.

"We offer this Mass for all those who suffered and died, and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices," the pope said. "The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross bears all the sin and pain of our peoples, in order to redeem it."

While supporting the rights of the indigenous peoples to maintain their cultures, Pope Francis insisted that the only way to survive and thrive was to remain united and to shun violence.

"Let us instead seek the path of active nonviolence as a style of politics for peace," he said. "Let us seek, and never tire of seeking, dialogue for the sake of unity. That is why we cry out: 'Lord, make us artisans of your unity.'"

Exercise "the solidarity that makes us say: We need one another and our differences so that this land can remain beautiful!" he told them. "It is the only weapon we have against the 'deforestation' of hope."

According to the Vatican, an estimated 150,000 people attended the Mass.

Pope to Chilean clergy: Sexual abuse a 'great and painful evil'

SANTIAGO, Chile — The evil of sexual abuse committed by members of the clergy has betrayed the trust of the faithful and caused suffering to those in priesthood and religious life who bear the consequences of their brethren's sins, Pope Francis said.

Meeting with priests, men and women religious, seminarians and novices Jan. 16, the pope said he is aware of the "harm and suffering of the victims and their families, who saw the trust they had placed in the ministers of the Church betrayed."

He also recognized the efforts of the country's priests and religious to "respond to this great and painful evil," and he said he knew sometimes innocent priests and men and women religious are often viewed with suspicion by others.

Greg Burke, the Vatican spokesman, said the pope met Jan. 16 with "a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests" at the apostolic nunciature in Santiago, Chile.

"The meeting took place in a strictly private way, and no one else was present: only the pope and the victims," Burke told journalists that evening.

At a press conference, Auxiliary Bishop Fernando Ramos Perez of Santiago, secretary-general of the Chilean bishops' conference, addressed criticism regarding the presence of Bishop Juan Barros of Osorno at several papal events, including the pope's meetings with the country's clergy as well as the bishops of Chile.

Bishop Barros' appointment as bishop by the pope in 2015 drew outrage and protests due to his connection to Father Fernando Karadima, his former mentor. Father Karadima was sentenced to a life of prayer and penance by the Vatican after he was found guilty of sexually abusing boys.

Earlier in the day, in his first formal speech in Chile, the pope asked forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse during an address to government authorities and members of Chile's diplomatic corps, expressing his "pain and shame at the irreparable damage caused to children by some ministers of the Church."

"I am one with my brother bishops, for it is right to ask for forgiveness and make every effort to support the victims, even as we commit ourselves to ensure that such things do not happen again," he said. 

Beatitudes are fruits of hope, not cheap talk

SANTIAGO, Chile — The beatitudes are not cheap words for those who think they know it all yet do not commit to faith; they are the fruit of a hopeful heart that yearns for peace and happiness, Pope Francis said.

Christ's response to the longings and aspirations of those seeking a life of happiness are not a "product of those prophets of dooms who seek only to spread dismay" or "mirages that promise happiness with a single 'click,' in the blink of any eye," the pope said Jan. 16, celebrating his first public Mass in Chile.

"The beatitudes are born of the compassionate heart of Jesus, which encounters the hearts of men and women seeking and yearning for a life of happiness," he said.

Reflecting on the Gospel reading from St. Matthew, Pope Francis said Jesus' proclamation of the beatitudes is the answer to those who seek an encounter with him. Jesus' first act before preaching, the pope said, was to "look out and see the faces of his people."

"Those faces awaken God's visceral love. Jesus' heart was not moved by ideas or concepts but by faces, persons. By life calling out for the life that the Father wants to give us," he said.

No one can replace a mother, Chilean inmate tells pope

SANTIAGO, Chile — When mothers are in prison, "children are the ones who suffer the most," a female inmate at San Joaquin Women's Prison told Pope Francis Jan. 16.

"Nothing and no one can replace a mother," the inmate, Janeth Zurita, told the pope on behalf of the hundreds of other women in the prison.

Pope Francis has visited other prisons, but this was the first time as pope that he visited one just for women. He was greeted by women standing with babies in their arms.

He stopped and spoke to one woman who was seven-and-a-half months pregnant and touched her stomach to bless her unborn baby. The prisoners can have their children with them until they are 2.

Pope Francis deviated from his original speech and repeatedly told the women they must demand their right to go back into society with dignity and not to forget their hopes and dreams.

"A sentence without a proper future isn't humane," he said. "Instead, it is a torture."

— Catholic News Service 

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