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Health & Spirit

In Peru, pope laments the state of urban poor

Patrick J. McDonnell, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Religious News

LIMA, Peru -- Pope Francis ended his trip to Chile and Peru on Sunday with a warning about the plight of the urban poor and what he termed the "globalization of indifference" toward their fate.

"They are found along our roadsides, living on the fringes of our cities, and lacking the conditions needed for a dignified existence," Francis said in a final homily before an estimated 1 million worshipers at a Mass at an air base here. "It is painful to realize that among these 'urban remnants' all too often we see the faces of children and adolescents. We look at the face of the future."

The comments were in line with Francis' oft-expressed concern for what he has termed a consumer-driven "throwaway culture" that, the pope says, devalues lives and the environment.

Throughout his six-day swing through the two South American nations, the pope emphasized the plight of the young and the poor, and denounced violence against women.

During a visit to the Peruvian Amazon city of Puerto Maldonado, Francis condemned forced prostitution and human trafficking, lamenting the fact that women were being "devalued, denigrated and exposed to endless violence."

The issue of clergy sexual abuse -- which was a prominent and controversial theme during the first days of his trip, in Chile -- did not come up publicly during his days in Peru.

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Some activists here had called on the pope to address allegations of abuse surrounding a Catholic organization known as Sodalitium Christianae Vitae. The group's former leader, Luis Fernando Figari, who is Peruvian, has denied accusations of years of sexual abuse of young men. But the pope did not address the case.

Francis had caused a furor with comments in Chile suggesting that victims of sexual abuse were committing slander by accusing a Chilean bishop of covering up misconduct by that country's most notorious pedophile priest. The bishop has denied any wrongdoing in the case. The Vatican sentenced the pedophile priest to a life of reflection and prayer.

On Saturday, Cardinal Sean O'Malley -- the archbishop of Boston and Francis' top aide on the issue of clerical abuse -- sought to soothe the indignation arising from the pope's comments in Chile.

In a statement, the cardinal acknowledged that the pope's words "were a source of great pain for survivors of sexual abuse." But the cardinal added that Francis "fully recognizes the egregious failures of the church and its clergy who abused children."

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