The Latest: Francis arrives in Peru for 4-day visit
IQUIQUE, Chile (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ visit to South America (all times local):
Pope Francis has landed in Peru for a four-day trip that will take him into the sweltering Amazon jungle to meet with indigenous communities and put him face-to-face with a president narrowly escaped impeachment in December.
Francis arrived in Lima Thursday afternoon after finishing a trip to Chile.
Francis will meet with Amazonian indigenous groups who are hoping he will call on the state to grant them formal land rights and encourage the government to support the cleanup of rivers and land spoiled by illegal mining and deforestation.
He is also slated to speak with President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who sparked nationwide protests in December after pardoning former Peruvian strongman Alberto Fujimori. The pardon reopened wounds from a bloody chapter in Peru’s history.
Pope Francis is en route to Peru after wrapping up a visit to neighboring Chile.
While in Chile, Francis asked forgiveness for abuses by some priests and met with survivors. He also met with members of the indigenous Mapuche community in the south, urging them to eschew political violence and calling on the Chilean government to engage its native peoples better.
The northern city of Iquique was Francis’ last stop before leaving for Peru. There, he asked Chileans to continue to welcome immigrants even as the migrant population has boomed.
One of the pope’s most memorable moments was marrying a flight attendant couple Thursday during the plane ride from Santiago to Iquique.
Francis also faced criticism for 2015 decision to appoint a bishop who had worked closely with convicted pedophile priest Fernando Karadima.
Francis said Thursday that there was no proof Bishop Juan Barros knew what Karadima was doing. Those comments were likely to attract more criticism.
Men, women and children from indigenous communities in Peru are making long treks through the Amazon to see Pope Francis when he visits the country.
Puerto Maldonado is a steamy rainforest city often used as a jumping point to deeper, more remote parts of the Amazon. Many like Cesar Yojaje are traveling by boat to reach it, while others are arriving on trucks and a few by plane.
Yojaje says he hopes the pontiff can be an intermediary between indigenous groups and the state in their quest to be granted formal land rights.
More than 50 ethnic groups reside in the Peruvian Amazon, which in recent years has been plagued by illegal mining that damages the delicate ecosystem.
Several thousand indigenous people are expected to greet Francis in Puerto Maldonado on Friday, where he is expected to reiterate his push to protect the Amazon.
Authorities in Peru say they will not permit any street protests during Pope Francis’ four-day trip to the Andean nation.
Police spokeswoman Veronica Marquez says officials will not allow demonstrations because it “impacts the image of the country.”
Protesters are required to have a permit in order to demonstrate in the country.
On Wednesday a small group of women staged a topless protest in front the main cathedral in Lima, the Peruvian capital. They carried a sign accusing the pope of protecting pedophiles.
Video of the incident shared on social media showed officers forcefully taking down the sign and moving the women away.
The Vatican recently took over a Peru-based Roman Catholic lay movement whose founder was accused of sexually and psychologically abusing members.
Francis is traveling from Chile to Peru later Thursday.
Pope Francis has brought his motorcade to a halt to check on a police officer who fell from her rearing horse along the route.
Francis descended from his popemobile Thursday after celebrating Mass in Iquique to check on the officer, who was on guard while Francis and his entourage passed by.
The horse reared up violently as the vehicle approached and the officer tumbled off. Francis stood by the woman until an ambulance arrived with a stretcher and took her away, before resuming his ride.
The Vatican said the woman was conscious “and received some words of consolation from the Holy Father.”
Pope Francis is characterizing as “calumny” allegations that a Chilean bishop knew about the actions of and covered up for the South American nation’s most notorious pedophile priest.
Earlier this week Francis met and wept with survivors of abuse and asked Chileans for forgiveness for the actions of some priests.
But Francis has also been sharply criticized for his 2015 decision to appoint Juan Barros as bishop in the southern city of Osorno. Barros was trained by the Rev. Fernando Karadima, whom the Vatican found guilty in 2011 of abusing minors over decades.
Asked about the case Thursday, Francis said: “There is not a single piece of proof (against Barros). It’s all calumny.”
That defense appears to stand in contrast to Francis’ comments on the scandal in a 2015 letter obtained by The Associated Press and published last week.
Francis says in the letter that he contemplated asking for the resignation of Barros and two other bishops accused of knowing about Karadima’s abuses and sending them on yearlong sabbaticals. Francis ultimately did not go through with that plan.
A small chapel in southern Peru has sustained minor fire damage in what church officials believe is the latest act of vandalism against religious buildings during Pope Francis’ trip to the region.
Patrol officers in the city of Arequipa discovered the front door of the chapel in flames around 3:40 a.m. and quickly extinguished the blaze.
The door was charred black, but no other part of 100-year-old building was damaged.
Authorities are investigating what caused the blaze. A preliminary theory is someone threw a fuel-soaked cloth at the chapel.
The incident comes hours before Francis is set to arrive in Peru later Thursday from neighboring Chile.
Eleven firebombs have damaged and in some cases burned churches to the ground in Chile in recent days.
Pope Francis is urging the people of a Chilean coastal city to continue to be welcoming toward migrants as their ranks swell.
Francis made the comments during a homily in Iquique, which has experienced a boom of immigrants from several countries. The rise has been so fast that today there are nearly two dozen immigrant slums.
The pope said Thursday: “This land is a land of dreams, but let us work to ensure that it also continues to be a land of hospitality.”
According to U.N. and church statistics, Chile had the fastest annual rate of migrant growth of any country in Latin American between 2010 and 2015.
Many of the newcomers are Haitians, who often face language barriers that limit their job prospects.
Chile has not experienced the kind of anti-immigrant backlash seen in the U.S. and Europe, but the incoming conservative government of President Sebastian Pinera has promised to crack down.
Pope Francis has celebrated the first-ever airborne papal wedding, marrying two flight attendants from Chile’s flagship airline during a flight from Santiago.
Bride Paola Podest and groom Carlos Ciuffardi said “I do” Thursday morning after telling Francis that they had been married in a civil service in 2010. However they said they were unable to follow up with a church ceremony because of the 2010 earthquake that hit Chile.
Francis then offered to marry the LATAM flight attendants aboard the aircraft en route to the northern city of Iquique, and they both readily agreed. The head of the airline served as the witness.
Ciuffardi told journalists in the aisle of the Airbus 321 that Francis told him it was “historic” and no pope had ever before married a couple aboard a plane.