For the second time in its history, Chile is preparing for a papal visit.
The Chile that the Holy Father will soon be visiting is radically different from the one that welcomed St. John Paul II thirty years ago. He was the first pope to ever visit this country. Now, the entire country is getting ready to host Pope Francis from 15 to 18 January. According to Javier Peralta, the executive director of the national commission organising the papal visit, Francis prefers to travel to places that are, in part, beset by dire problems. The very densely packed programme of the Holy Father includes visits to three cities. The first stop will be the capital city of Santiago, the home of almost half of Chile’s inhabitants. Afterwards, he will travel to Temuco in the Araucanía region where the so-called “Mapuche conflict” rages. This indigenous ethnic group is using violence to claim its rights. The visit will end in Iquique in the northern part of the country. Many migrants live in this region, which presents a great challenge to Chileans.
“As a pontifical foundation, we are exceedingly pleased by this news. We are convinced that his visit will not leave us indifferent. His message will deeply penetrate into the hearts of Chileans. We hope that, in his role as a messenger of peace, he will not only do good for Catholics, but also for society as a whole. After all, he is seeking unity and peace. He is dedicated to helping those in need and those who are suffering,” Carlos Valenzuela, the national director of the Chilean section of Aid to the Church in Need, said.The society in today’s Chile has been torn apart. Since the last papal visit, people have less faith in institutions, including those of the Catholic church. “The situation in our society is very tense. This can be seen by the disastrous mood that pervades society, a diminished respect for social dialogue, an increasing difficulty in reaching national agreements as well as an all-pervasive mutual distrust that makes encounters and dialogue almost impossible in the country,” Bishop Fernando Ramos, the national coordinator for the papal visit, said.
This is why the pope chose “My peace I give you” as the motto for his visit. The Chilean church has paved the way for this by tirelessly setting a good example. It is working to promote encounters based on fraternal dialogue and an appreciation for the value of life. The protection of life in all circumstances has played a key role in the social conflicts of the past few months.
“A papal visit is a tremendous gift. Jesus Christ himself is touching our hearts in the guise of Francis,” María Covarrubias, the president of the Chilean section of Aid to the Church in Need, explained. She then commented on the current situation in the country, “For a country that has been painfully hit by the legalisation of abortion, the papal visit brings renewed hope to the lives of Christians. God has chosen us as the protagonists of the future, a future which we should meet with faith and trust in God. The fruits of the papal visit will depend on the reception that each individual Chilean prepares for him in his or her heart.”
A key area of Aid to the Church in Need’s work in Chile is supporting the training of seminarians and permanent deacons. Thanks to a large number of Mass intentions and stipends, the pontifical foundation can also help those priests of various Chilean dioceses who are most in need.