Pope's Chile-Peru trip to include focus on indigenous people

By The Canadian Press
November 13, 2017 - 3:30pm

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis' trip to Chile and Peru in January is likely to focus on the plight of indigenous peoples, with a day dedicated to the Amazon and a visit to a region wracked by tensions with Chile's Mapuche group.

The Vatican on Monday released the itinerary for the Jan. 15-22 trip, which will be the pope's 22nd foreign visit and his fifth to his home continent.

The trip also is expected to cover issues important to Francis — poverty, migration and the environment. And it will feature the protocol visits, speeches to bishops and meetings with local Jesuits that are part of any Francis foreign trip.

It also could create tension. Vandals recently burned a bus and scattered pamphlets to protest Francis' Jan. 17 visit to the southern Chilean region claimed by the Mapuche as ancestral territory.

The Mapuche are Chile's largest indigenous group and they resisted conquest for 300 years, until military defeats in the late 19th century forced them into Araucania, south of the Bio Bio river, about 500 miles (800 kilometres) south of the capital. The government then encouraged European immigrants to colonize the area.

Most of the 700,000 Mapuche are peaceful as they live in poverty on the fringes of timber companies or ranches owned by the Europeans' descendants. But their desire for autonomy remains strong.

Some Mapuche communities include radical factions that have occupied and burned farms and lumber trucks to demand the return of the land. Police have also been accused of violent abuses, including storming into Mapuche homes during raids and shooting rubber bullets and tear gas at women and children.

Francis will fly into Temuco on Jan. 17, celebrate Mass and have lunch with residents, for a total of six hours on the ground. He hasn't requested any special security, Chilean organizers said.

His itinerary in Temuco "reflects his concern for a region that has experienced significant tensions, where he wants to share a message of peace and try to bring words of hope that can bring about encounters among peoples," said Monsignor Fernando Ramos, auxiliary bishop of Santiago, who is in charge of organizing the trip.

Francis has long drawn attention to the plight of Latin America's indigenous peoples, who he says are disproportionately harmed by the effects of environmental degradation, the lingering effects of colonization and a modern global economy that exploits the natural resources of poor countries for the benefit of the rich.

Francis will focus on the Amazon during his first full day in Lima, lunching with indigenous in the Peruvian capital and delivering a speech Jan. 19.

Other highlights of the trip include a stop at a women's jail in Santiago — the first time he will visit a women's detention centre. Francis has met with male inmates on many of his trips, part of his longstanding commitment to urging society's outcasts to not give up hope.

He will also likely address migration issues in Iquique, a city in northern Chile where migrants from across the region live in poverty-wracked slums.

As he has done on previous trips, Francis will pay special honour to a local Jesuit — in this case St. Alberto Hurtado, a 20th century Chilean priest who was born into poverty and spent his ministry tending to the poor and homeless. Hurtado, who built shelters, schools and retreats for society's most marginal, died in 1952 and was canonized in 2005.

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Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield reported this story at the Vatican and AP writer Eva Vergara reported from Santiago, Chile. AP writer Luis Henao in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed to this report.

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This story has been corrected to show the January visit to Chile and Peru will be Pope Francis' 22nd foreign trip.

Nicole Winfield And Eva Vergara, The Associated Press

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Mon, 13 Nov 2017 17:34:19 -0500

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