Health & Spirit

Pope Francis, in Chile, apologizes for sexual abuse by priests

Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

Vendors sold coffee and snacks as lines of papal well-wishers waited to get in the park. Some people sang religious songs.

Worshipers waved flags of their home countries. And while Chilean flags dominated, there were many flags from neighboring Argentina, the birthplace of the first pope from the Americas.

"Yes, we hope to see Francisco someday in Argentina," said Dahiana Veroitza,19, part of a contingent from southern Argentina attending the Mass. "We are all very proud of him. But it's very moving to be in his presence here in Chile as well."

The Argentine press has been filled with speculation about why Francis has not made an apostolic visit to his homeland, though he has now made four trips to South America. Some observers have suggested that the pope--well versed in the contentious political scenario of his native country--did not want a papal visit to be dragged into Argentina's divisive internal politics.

Francis arrived in Chile on Monday evening and will continue to Peru later in the week. He is expected to preach on indigenous rights, environmental destruction in the Amazon and the plight of immigrants.

In an eleventh-hour schedule shift, Francis stopped Monday evening in Santiago at the tomb of a Chilean prelate who was known as the "bishop of the poor" and who aided those seeking loved ones detained during Chile's former military dictatorship.

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Francis was welcomed at Santiago's international airport by Bachelet.

The 81-year-old pope, known for his low-key style, took the passenger seat of a blue Hyundai sedan. The car traveled from the airport through the streets of the capital in a convoy of white SUVs as tens of thousands of well-wishers, many waving Vatican and Chilean flags, lined the streets.

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