America

Chile and Peru: Pope defends women and indigenous people

Omnes-February 2, 2018-Reading time: 4 minutes

After his sixth trip as Pope to the American continent, the Holy Father has returned touched by the spontaneity of the Chilean people and the faith of the Peruvians. He described on the plane of "tall tale" that his visit to Chile was "a failure", as a journalist told him, and encouraged young people to connect with Jesus.

TEXT - Rafael Miner and Fernando Serrano

At the beginning of the general audience on January 24 in Rome, Pope Francis summed up his impressions after his intense visit to the Latin American continent: "I returned two days ago from my apostolic journey to Chile and Peru. Let's hear it for Chile and Peru! Two good, good people... I thank the Lord because everything went well: I was able to meet the People of God on the road in those lands - even those who are not on the road (and) are a little stopped..., but they are good people - and to encourage the social development of those countries".

The tone of the hearing was subdued, as usual. But on the plane returning from Peru, the trip was still in full bloom. It had been hours since the Pope and the journalists had been on the plane, after another day of great intensity, and at the press conference, a Chilean journalist referred to his visit to her country as "a failure". The Pope's verbatim response on the flight was this: "And the other thing about Chile is a tall tale, eh? I came from Chile happy, I did not expect so many people in the street. And that, we did not pay the entrance fee. That is to say, those people were not paid or taken by bus. The spontaneity of the Chilean expression was very strong. Even in Iquique, which I thought was going to be a very small thing, because Iquique is a desert, you saw what the people were like".

Standing on the plane, Pope Francis elaborated on his response. He wanted to get out of the way of a possible fake newsThe report also included an erroneous or false news item that could be disseminated, and expanded his own impression of the visit: "In the south the same thing. And in Santiago, the streets of Santiago spoke for themselves. In this I believe that the reporter's responsibility is to go to the concrete facts. Here there was this, there was this, and this. And I don't know where it comes from, it is the first time I hear it. Maybe this case of Barros is what has created it, but placing it in its reality may be because of that. But the impression he gave me is that what happened in Chile was very gratifying and very strong".

Call to pray for peace

To better understand the dialogue, it may be useful to complete the information with the Pope's words of the 24th, which offer an evangelical approach. There, the Holy Father referred to the fact that his arrival in Chile "was preceded by various demonstrations of protest. And that made the motto of my visit even more current and vivid: 'My peace I give you. These are the words of Jesus addressed to the disciples, which we repeat at every Mass: the gift of peace, which only the dead and risen Jesus can give to those who entrust themselves to him".

The Pope went on to refer to the Gospel passage:"Not only each one of us needs peace; also the world, today, in this world war in pieces... Please pray for peace!".

In this sense, the anecdote of former President Ricardo Lagos in Santiago is symptomatic. Lagos in Santiago. At the exit of a meeting with professors of the Catholic University, the journalists began to ask the former president, a socialist and non-Catholic, about controversial issues. And his answer, not verbatim, was the following: Who am I to tell the Pope what to do or say? As they kept asking along the same lines, he answered: Let's not focus on accessory things, the important thing is to think about what the Pope has told us.

In the first Eucharist in Santiago de Chile, as well as in the other two Masses, in the north and in the south, the Pope launched appeals for peace. In Araucania, in the land of the Mapuche Indians, he called for peace to be "harmony of diversities" with "repudiation of all violence". And in the north, in Iquique, he blessed the expressions of faith of the people of the area and of so many migrants, according to Bishop Guillermo Vera in these pages.

A believing people

There were no relevant attempts to set the agenda for the Pope's visit to Peru. Or at least they did not transpire. The successor of Peter was really moved, as he said on several occasions, both on the plane and in the general audience. What do you take away from your trip to Peru, he was asked. "I take with me the impression of a believing people, a people that goes through many difficulties, and historically they have gone through them, right? But a faith that impresses me, not only the faith in Trujillo, where popular piety is very rich and very strong, but the faith in the streets. Did you see what the streets were like? And not only in Lima, obviously, but also in Trujillo, also in Puerto Maldonado, where I was thinking of having the ceremony in a place like this and it was a full square, and when I went from one place to another, too. In other words, a people who came out to express their joy and their faith, right?"

At the end, in Lima, the reference to the saints was explicit and generous: "You are a 'ensantada' land. You are the Latin American people with the most saints, and high-level saints, right? Toribio, Rosa, Martín, Juan. Of high level. I think they have their faith very deeply rooted inside. I take away from Peru an impression of joy, of faith, of hope, of walking again and, above all, many children. In other words, I saw again that image I saw in the Philippines and in Colombia: fathers and mothers lifting up the children, and that says 'future', that says 'hope', because no one brings children into the world without hope".

On the plane, with the media, the Pope apologized, once again, to the victims of sexual abuse, for having used the term "sexual abuse" in Chile. "evidence" when he referred to Bishop Barros, when he meant to say that "there was no evidence" that he had covered up abuses, because he had "Covering up abuse is abuse. The best thing to do is for anyone who believes it is so, to provide evidence quickly, if they honestly believe it is so. My heart is open to receive it.

Finally, he said "something that moved me a lot: the women's prison". which he visited in Santiago de Chile. "I had my heart there...I'm always very sensitive to prisons and the incarcerated, and I always wonder why them and not me. And to see these women. To see the creativity of these women, the ability to want to change their lives, to reintegrate into society with the strength of the Gospel.... One of you said to me: 'I have seen the joy of the Gospel'. I was very moved. Truly, I was very moved by that encounter. It was one of the most beautiful things of the trip. 

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