TEXT - Pablo Aguilera, Santiago de Chile
"And you will see how they want in Chile" are verses of a traditional song that all Chileans know. Thirty long years have passed since the well-remembered visit of Saint John Paul II to our country. Since then, the Andean country has changed a lot. The population has increased from 11.3 million to 17.5 million; GDP has increased from US$22.26 billion in 1987 to US$247 billion in 2016. The percentage of Catholics has decreased from 75 % to 59 % of the population, while evangelical denominations have increased from 12 % to 17 %. The sharp increase of those who declare themselves atheists or agnostics from 5 % (year 1992) to 19 % (year 2013) is striking. If in 1987 2.59 children were born per woman of childbearing age, now 1.79 are born and in 1987 there were 80,479 resident migrants, which have increased to 465,319 in 2016.
In June last year, Pope Francis' visit to Chile was officially announced at the invitation of the Episcopal Conference and the government. The Organizing Commission began hard work to prepare three massive events in Santiago, Temuco and Iquique. The Pope would arrive on Monday night, January 15 and would leave for Peru on Thursday 18.
On Tuesday 16, Francis met early in the morning with government authorities at the La Moneda Palace, headed by President Michelle Bachelet. We must remember that in November the Congress approved an abortion bill -presented by the government- that allowed the interruption of pregnancy in three cases (serious illness of the mother, lethal illness of the fetus and rape). For this reason, Francis, in his speech, referred to the vocation of the Chilean people: "The Chilean people have a vocation: "that calls for a radical option for life, especially in all the forms in which it is threatened.". He also took the opportunity to refer to a topic that has hurt the Catholic Church in the last decade: "And here I cannot fail to express the pain and shame, shame that I feel at the irreparable damage caused to children by ministers of the Church. I would like to join my brothers in the episcopate, because it is right to ask for forgiveness and to support the victims with all our strength, while at the same time we must strive to ensure that this does not happen again.".
From the Palacio de La Moneda the Pope went to the O'Higgins Park, a large esplanade where he would celebrate his first Mass on Chilean soil, which had as its motto For peace and justice. Some 400,000 faithful gathered there to welcome Francis with great enthusiasm as he rode in the popemobile around the site.
In his homily he commented on the beatitudes: "Jesus, in saying blessed to the poor, to the one who has wept, to the afflicted, to the patient, to the one who has forgiven... comes to extirpate the paralyzing immobility of those who believe that things cannot change, of those who have stopped believing in the transforming power of God the Father and in their brothers, especially in their most fragile brothers, in their discarded brothers. Jesus, in proclaiming the beatitudes, comes to shake that negative prostration called resignation that makes us believe that we can live better if we escape from problems, if we flee from others; if we hide or lock ourselves in our comforts, if we lull ourselves to sleep in a soothing consumerism.".
On Tuesday afternoon, January 16, the director of the Holy See's Press Room, Greg Burke, reported:"The Holy Father met today at the Apostolic Nunciature in Santiago, after lunch, with a small group of victims of sexual abuse by priests. The meeting took place in a strictly private manner and no one else was present: only the Pope and the victims. In this way, they were able to tell their sufferings to Pope Francis, who listened to them and prayed and cried with them.".
Later, the Pontiff met in the cathedral with priests, religious and seminarians. He conveyed his closeness to them because, due to the abuses committed by some ministers of the Church, they are suffering insults and misunderstandings. "I know that sometimes they have suffered insults in the subway or walking down the street; that being dressed as a priest in many places is very expensive."The Pope invited them to ask God: "What is God's will?The lucidity to call reality by its name, the courage to ask for forgiveness and the ability to learn to listen to what He is saying to us.".
The Pope with the Mapuche people
The Araucanía region in the south of the country has suffered violence from Mapuche extremist groups over the last decade. These groups are demanding the return of land that was taken from them by the state at the end of the 19th century for distribution to settlers. They have set fire to agricultural and forestry machinery, attacked agricultural landowners and even murdered a farming couple. They have set fire to dozens of evangelical and Catholic chapels, and have even fired guns at the police. The government has given them 215,000 hectares in the last 20 years, but they still continue with the attacks.
On Wednesday the 17th, the Holy Father traveled by plane to the city of Temuco, capital of this troubled region. The Holy Father met with 200,000 people in the city of Temuco, the capital of this troubled region. Mass for the progress of peoples in Araucanía, at the Maquehue military aerodrome. It was a moment of prayer that mixed signs of Mapuche culture and the Catholic rite, impregnating the atmosphere with the identity of this region of Chile, marked by beautiful landscapes and the scene of pain and injustice.
"Mari, Mari", "Good morning" y "Küme tünngün ta niemün"., "Peace be with you"Francis said in the Mapudungun language, receiving a round of applause from all those who listened attentively to his message, which had as its axis the call for the unity of peoples. "It is necessary to be attentive to possible temptations that may appear and contaminate the root of this gift.", the Pontiff explained.
"The first is the mistake of confusing unity with uniformity.", which he called "false synonyms". "Unity does not and will not come from neutralizing or silencing differences.", he said, adding that the richness of a land is born precisely from each part being encouraged to share its wisdom with others, leaving the logic of believing that there are superior or inferior cultures. "We need each other based on our differences"he said.
Secondly, the Holy Father made it clear that in order to achieve unity, not just any means can be accepted. In that sense, he strongly expressed that one of the forms of violence was found in the elaboration of "beautiful" agreements that never come to fruition. "Nice words, finished plans, yes - and necessary -, but if they do not become concrete, they end up in the end. 'erasing with the elbow, what is written with the hand'. This is also violence, because it frustrates hope."Pope Francis said, receiving a round of applause.
In closing, he strongly condemned the use of any kind of violence to achieve an end. "Violence ends up making a liar out of the most just cause", said Pope Francis, and added, "Lord: make us artisans of unityexplaining that the way forward is active nonviolence, as a "way of life".policy style for peace".
The last day celebrated the Mass for the integration of peoples on a beach in Iquique. Suddenly, the Holy Father stopped the popemobile when he noticed that a policewoman lost control of her horse and fell violently to the ground. Visibly concerned, Pope Francis approached to verify that the woman was all right, while emergency teams arrived to give first aid. It was a significant gesture of his concern for individual people.