The Latest: Small crowds greet pope on first visit to Chile
Jan. 16, 2018
SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — The latest on Pope Francis' visit to Latin America (all times local):
Thousands of people have lined avenues in Chile's capital to get a glimpse of Pope Francis as he passes by in his popemobile.
But compared to papal visits to other Latin American countries, the crowds are very thin, in many areas a single line of people.
Francis' first visit to Chile as the head of the Roman Catholic Church comes at a time when many Chileans are skeptical of the church and even angry over one of the pope's decisions. In 2015, Francis appointed a bishop who had been close to the Rev. Fernando Karadima, who abused dozens of minors over decades.
Some people cheered "Long live the pope!" when he passed by.
Others carried signs criticizing the pope or extolling him to act. "Stop the abuse, Francis!" read one sign. "You can so you must!"
Pope Francis has landed in Chile, where protests are expected over his decision to appoint a bishop who was close to the Andean nation's most notorious pedophile priest.
Francis' arrival Monday night marks his first visit to Chile since becoming pope in 2013.
After deplaning, he'll meet with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.
Over the next three days, Francis is scheduled to celebrate Mass in Santiago, the southern city of Temuco and the northern city of Iquique. On Thursday, the pope will go to Peru.
Francis' trip is aimed at highlighting the plight of immigrants and underscoring the need to preserve the Amazon rain forest. However, sexual abuse by priests has taken front and center.
Pope Francis is sending greetings to his homeland of Argentina as his plane flies over the country en route to neighboring Chile.
Francis says he sends "my heartfelt best wishes to all the people in my homeland."
The papal flyby was yet another reminder that Francis has assiduously avoided returning to Argentina in his five years as pope and on his six trips to Latin America.
Most Vatican watchers attribute his reluctance to return home to his abhorrence of being used by Argentina's political factions, since any visit would involve a series of protocol visits, photo-ops and propaganda opportunities for whichever government is in power.
Francis is so attuned to the possibility that his image could be exploited for political ends that he refused while archbishop of Buenos Aires to offer communion at Mass to the rank and file, since it could be seen as an endorsement of the recipient.
Government officials in Chile say no topic will be off limits when Pope Francis meets with President Michelle Bachelet late Monday.
Government spokeswoman Paula Narvaez says Bachelet views the visit like any head of state.
Many Chileans have expressed concern in recent weeks that Francis may openly support Bolivia's push for a piece of land from Chile to connect that landlocked country to the Pacific Ocean. The topic is a sensitive for Chileans, who feel that giving Bolivia a slice of land would compromise their national borders.
There has also been talk about whether the pope would bring up proposals to legalize abortion in the Andean nation. Currently abortion is only legal if the life of a woman is at risk, if pregnancy results from or if a fetus is not viable.
Politically, the Roman Catholic Church has had a strong influence in Chile, managing to keep some of the world's most restrictive abortion laws in effect.
The pope will be in Chile until Thursday, when he travels to Peru.
Hours before Pope Francis is set to arrive in Chile, activists on issues related to sex abuse by priests are calling for sanctions against both abusers and anyone who helped cover up their actions.
About 200 people attended the first of several planned meetings and protests aimed at making priest abuse a central topic of Francis' first visit to the Andean nation since becoming pope.
Priestly abuse in Chile is an open wound. That's in part because of Francis' decision to appoint a bishop with close ties to the country's most notorious abuser, the Rev. Fernando Karadima.
Juan Carlos Cruz, who was abused as a child by Karadima, says it's time for the pope to ask for forgiveness and take action.