Pope Francis Weeps With Sex Abuse Victims as Protests Continue in Chile


Burke did not provide more details about the meeting victims.

The celebration was on the land the Mapuche accuse the government of expropriating from them.

In his homily, Pope Francis recognized that, in the past, the airport had been the site of "grave violations of human rights" and said he was offering the Mass for "all those who suffered and died and for those who daily bear the burden of those many injustices". More than fifty people were arrested, authorities said.

Despite the pain and division associated with the territory, Pope Francis called on the people of southern Chile to work toward building unity and resist attempts at uniformity.

That distrust extends to Francis, who is making his first visit as pope to the country of 17 million people. Protesters carried signs with messages reading "Burn, pope!" and "We don't care about the pope!" They consist of nice words and detailed plans, and while these are needed, they end up "erasing with the elbow what was written by the hand" when they go unimplemented, he said, explaining that this is a form of violence "because it frustrates hope".

The attacks affected Catholic churches in the town of Cunco, about 700 kilometers from Santiago, in the region of La Araucanía, which were totally consumed by the flames, said Cooperativa Psblo Oackley, commander of the local fire brigade. The pope is set to visit with indigenous Mapuches Wednesday in Temuco, the capital of Araucania.

Anne Barrett Doyle of the online abuse database, BishopAccountability.org, praised Francis for opening his visit with the apology, but said Chileans expect him to take action against complicit church leaders.

Indigenous communities of south-central Chile have long accused the state and private companies of taking their ancestral land, stripping it of natural resources and using heavy-handed enforcement against their communities.

The drama of the visit has been heightened by a string of firebombings of churches. It's not clear who has been behind the spate of recent burnings.

In 2011, after decades of complaints, Chilean priest Fernando Karadima was found guilty of abusing dozens of minors.

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Pope Francis celebrated Mass on Wednesday in the homeland of Chile's Mapuche indigenous community, paying tribute to a group that has been engaged in a sometimes violent struggle to bolster autonomy and reclaim lost ancestral lands.

"As if growing up means accepting injustice, believing that nothing can be done, that this is the way things have always been", he said on Wednesday, during the second full day of his January 15-18 visit to Chile.

A recent Latinobarometro survey said the crisis triggered a sharp drop in the number of Chileans who consider themselves Catholic, as well as a decline in confidence in the church as an institution.

Days prior to his arrival, several churches in Chile were vandalized and attacked.

But Karadima's victims say the church was too slow to investigate and dismiss the priest.

The pope pleaded for forgiveness Tuesday for child sexual abuse scandals that rocked the Catholic Church in Chile, as riot police broke up a protest in Santiago near the first public mass of his South American visit, attended by 400,000 people.

Bishop Juan Barros of the southern city of Osorno has always denied he knew what Karadima was doing when he was the priest's protege, but many Chileans have a hard time believing that.

Pope Francis is treating a few members of Chile's Mapuche indigenous peoples to a fancy lunch, featuring octopus carpaccio, osso bucco and flan.

Pope Francis, in his address to President Michelle Bachelet, other Chilean top officials, cardinals, bishops and foreign diplomats, said: "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 ensuring that such things do not happen again", he said. "It is surprising that the pope and his entourage don't understand that they need to be more forthcoming on this issue".