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Chile Shows Discontent with the Pope

Margaret C. Galitzin
The coastal city of Iquique in northern Chile was well-prepared for the Papal Mass that Francis was scheduled to say on January 18, 2018, the last public Mass of his 3-day visit in that country. The sector partitioned off on Lobito Beach had the capacity for 380,000 persons, and the planners were hoping it would suffice for the expected crowds.

The space was more than sufficient, embarrassingly so, in fact, as you can see from the picture below, showing not even a sixth of the places reserved were taken. Estimates counted the audience at 75,000 to 90,000. Even chairs in the stand reserved for the musicians and singers were empty, suggesting the absences were meant to signify disapproval.

Aerial photograph of the under-attended papal Mass at Iquique, 2018

A lot of overestimated space for the papal Mass

This small mining city of 200,000 inhabitants is known for its celebration of the Fiesta de la Tirana honoring Our Lady of Mount Carmel, which attracts 250,000 from the area every year. For Francis' last Mass in Chile, however, these faithful with a strong devotion to Our Lady simply did not show up.

Taking the side of a pro-pedophile Bishop

I can think of plenty of reasons for Chilean Catholics to be upset with the “mercy Pope.” On this visit, instead of showing mercy for the victims of a notorious convicted pedophile priest Fr. Fernando Karadima, Pope Bergoglio took the side of Bishop Juan Barros, one of the three Bishops accused of covering up for Karadima.

Irritated replying brusquely to journalists

An irritated Francis at a journalist's question about Barros; below, protests against the Francis appointee

Protests against nomination of Bishop Juan Barros
This was already a very hot subject in Chile, and rather than quench the fire, Francis threw gasoline on the flames.

Briefly, here is the story. Karadima's victims had reported the sex abuse to Church authorities as early as 2002, but not until the victims went public in 2010 did the Vatican start an investigation. Karadimawas found guilty of sexually abusing teenage boys and ordered to lead a “life of prayer and penitence.”

In 2015, Francis rubbed salt in that still scathing wound when he named Juan Barros, a protector of Karadima, as Bishop of Osorno. Barros reportedly knew of the abuse and was even accused of watching it. His appointment outraged the people, divided the diocese and further discredited the Vatican. (more here)

So, when a Chilean journalist questioned Francis about the Bishop Barros appointment, his brusque and irritated reply came as a shock: “There is not one shred of proof against him, It's all a calumny. Is that clear?”

This defense of Barros – when there is, in fact, the testimony of victims which is much more than a shred of proof – has raised indignant responses around the world. So many, in fact, that Francis recently made a bumbling attempt to apologize, which hasn’t seemed to convince anyone. He continues to stand by the controversial Bishop Barros. Even the Pope’s close ally, Card. Sean O’Malley of Boston, has criticized the Pope’s comment.

What Francis offered the Chilean people was proof of his partiality, lack of concern about pedophile crimes and the Prelates who cover them up. Not a thing to increase his popularity ratings in that country.

A plea for migrants

A second stormy topic the Pope entered more than once on his Chilean trip was his demand to “welcome immigrants.”

Facing a wave of aliens – last year alone close to 105,000 Haitians and more than 100,000 Venezuelans entered the country – many Chileans are upset at the surge and see them as the source of rising crime.

As in so many European countries and the U.S., Francis’ constant encouragement of the Muslim migration  is increasingly irritating. Again, his declarations on this topic were not a factor to raise his popularity.

An on-flight ‘Las Vegas’ marriage

Finally, we have the impromptu and highly unorthodox “marriage” Francis performed for two flight attendants aboard the papal plane en route to Iquique. The news of his “pastoral response” at first reported that he performed that “ceremony” with no marriage preparation, no confessions for the cohabitating couple, not even a call for baptismal certificates. It was not different from a Las Vegas wedding where the only requirement is the presence of the couple.

The couple spontaneously married by Pope Francis on a plane in 2018

A supposed spontaneous request for a papal marriage

This is quite fitting for a Pope who addressed a pastoral congress on the family in Rome making the dual claim that the “great majority of Catholic marriages are null” and some cohabitating couples are in a “real marriage” because of their love and fidelity.

By the way, later, the Vatican press stepped in to try to placate the conservative reaction against that action: “Really, it wasn't so spontaneous. The couple had been prepared, the Baptism records were provided, etc.” But the credibility of today’s Vatican is so low that many people have doubts about the truth of these clean-up statements.

Priest pedophiles and cover ups, immigration, doctrinal and moral errors: This Pope is getting failing marks on everything. Consequently, papal credibility is suffering. Discontent among the faithful is growing. It is a strange scenario where no one knows what Francis will do or say next.




Posted January 24, 2018

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